Big Fish Bait / a. philip armbrister

we had to break
before the dawn
no time to brush
this morning’s chores
hurried by my brothers
the night before
school will not wait
so we will not either
north on the asphalt
cross road to the sea wall
.
the conch lip pink sky
kept time for us
.
old trimmed shorts
older cotton T-shirts
standing shoeless
in thigh high water
pants wet
wet with shiny silver sea water
shimmering like porgy scales
but it is shads we’re after
or slippery dicks
or baby grunts
or school masters
if they were smart enough
to eat the damn conch
.
bent sewing pins
the weapons of choice
that round tin biscuit can
was so loud
it could wake your daddy
when he was ‘Green Seal’ drunk
but we needed thread
long, thin, white thread
the white one was strong like a leader
stainless steel fishing leaders
.
clear plastic gallon size bottle
floating on the cold salty sea
waiting for life
wanting lots of it
young, unbridled and frisky

a pinch of conch white
No! that’s too big
a booger size piece
on the tip of the curled pin
finger prick
finger prick
finger prick
.
now all the fish
swimming in the jug
making friends with
the shads with no mouth
happy pets until three
after school bait
for my brothers and me
.
now pink getting white
the light moving fast
people side the road
hiking up and down the line
water getting warm
we getting late
better go home
before we get break
.
•••

A. Philip Armbrister is an Assistant Professor at The College of The Bahamas, and a Fulbright Scholar with research interests in sustainable development and Haitian Creole studies. Poetry is comforting, revealing and therapeutic. He uses it to express his creativity as it is revealed to him through people, objects, events, memory and imagination.

27 comments

  1. Reply

    Love the school and thread/sewing metaphor for fishing. Awesomeness!

  2. Reply

    This poem, Big Fish Bait, reflects one of the memorable experiences of growing up in a tropical setting and living near the sea. Sometimes it is just very difficult to put such experiences in words. You have done an excellent job. It makes me wish I was a boy. I don’t imagine too many girls taking part in such an experience. If they did, it would be unforgettable. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Reply

    This is an awesome piece. It certainly brings back memories of having to improvise and make do with what you have. Great job. Thank you for the link.

  4. Reply

    This is great, didn’t know you had that in you. Such wonderful memories of jumping the seawall playing in the salt water and trying to catch shads and slippery dicks, can’t forget the big belly puss guts that always eat the bait. Also fond memmories of running to and from school down the long back road.
    This is a great piece I really love it. Keep it up.

  5. Reply

    I am too young to know anything about fishing with sewing pins and thread, but I think this may be what my parents and grand parents referred to as ‘fishining’….. I am old enough however, to identify brilliance and this piece is nothing short of that. It opened my minds eye enough to envision the characters, even causing me to feel as though I was there. Please keep up your work. This is exactly what Bahamians need.

  6. Reply

    Most boy’s growing up on the island’s “and West End”up till the early 80’s can relate to that kind of fishing adventure.Thanks for the trip down memory lane!!!

  7. Reply

    Enjoyed this poem Mr. Armbrister. Keep up the Great Work!!!

  8. Reply

    Brings back memories of fishing with my friends.
    NICE.

  9. Reply

    This piece was a reminder of the way life used to be. Oh for the simpler more peaceful life that we once knew. Ok time to wake up and get on with our day. Simply beautiful, Philip, anxiously awaiting more.

  10. Reply

    Hey Phil….awesome dread.Heard you talking about your new found talent at the reunion meeting…..now to actually get a taste of it…..yeah ya bad.

  11. Reply

    It’s a great poem good imagery i could see the fish swimming and taking the bite. Good job Mr. Armbrister

  12. Reply

    Phillip, this really bring back fond memories of the 70’s for me. the carefree summer days “fisherning” on the rocks. this is a fine piece of work. but some of those fishes u mentioned, we threw back. lol…

  13. Reply

    “Big Fish Bait” is a very rich poem both in its form and its content. It is full with good images forcing the reader to recall memories. These memories create emotions, a reaction that any good piece of art or literature always provokes.
    “Big Fish Bait” is so rich with cultural information! The theme is fishing but it’s not just about fishing. It’s also about the life experience of a generation of Bahamians or all islanders. It’s about family at the time; parents’ roles and children roles.
    “Big Fish Bait” is brilliant in the way it forces you to think, to compare older generations to new generations. This poem is kind of melancholic because some negative aspects of the Bahamian culture 50 years ago remains intact today while many positive elements are being lost. For instance, daddies still drink too much and I think that more and more daddies are” ‘Green Seal’ drunk” too often these days preventing them from taking proper care of their family.
    On the other hand, boys do not have fun the way they used to. Fishing is a healthy way for boys to have fun. Nowadays, boys are not into fishing. They have fun differently. They have fun doing activities that are not as healthy as before.
    I am not Bahamian, but being born and raised in Haiti, an island like the Bahamas, I can relate to this poem. What is happening in the Bahamas is unfortunately happening in most Caribbean nations.
    Philip, it’s a great poem man. It is so rich that one can write an entire paper about it. Keep up the good job.

  14. Reply

    I personally enjoy the third person point of view in the beginning. It gives a real sense of unity and how close the speaker and his brothers are.
    The speaker could possibly be the youngest of the group as he is the one being told what to do and hurried.
    The poem highlights or suggests how impatient some people could be, being that the brothers are frustrated that the fishes wouldn’t eat the bait (conch)
    I enjoy the explanation of the traditional way of fishing because I always hear my parents talk about how their generation or era used to do common things. This brings a sort of nostalgic feeling to the poem.
    The poem also shows how the conch is treasured or thought of as something not to be wasted. I don’t blame them lol.
    I enjoy the resolution that the brothers finally got some fish.
    In the end it shows this era was a while back, because the speaker and his brothers had respect for his parents that was lost so long ago, also, that his parents believed in disciplinary actions.

    Armbrister did a wonderful job!! It was a pleasure to read such an interesting poem.

  15. Reply

    This made me smile and brought back the fun memories of watching other people fish (smile). This is good Bro, I enjoyed it! All the best! and continue to write.

  16. Reply

    I got it this time. It made me happy inside. Good memories about good times, even if things weren’t ideal. I know those memories are dear to you. I’m proud. Lots of Love.

  17. Reply

    I personally enjoy the third person point of view in the beginning. It gives a real sense of unity and how close the speaker and his brothers are.
    The speaker could possibly be the youngest of the group as he is the one being told what to do and hurried.
    The poem highlights or suggests how impatient some people could be, being that the brothers are frustrated that the fishes wouldn’t eat the bait (conch)
    I enjoy the explanation of the traditional way of fishing because I always hear my parents talk about how their generation or era used to do common things. This brings a sort of nostalgic feeling to the poem.
    The poem also shows how the conch is treasured or thought of as something not to be wasted. I don’t blame them lol.
    I enjoy the resolution that the brothers finally got some fish.
    In the end it shows this era was a while back, because the speaker and his brothers had respect for his parents that was lost so long ago, also, that his parents believed in disciplinary actions.
    Armbrister did a wonderful job!! It was a pleasure to read such an interesting poem.

  18. Reply

    What fun! That’s the reason my sister has returned to Exuma post retirement

  19. Reply

    Well i am to young for that one,but thats what some experience people was talking about. The real fishing on the rock. Its really down home, and the way you word it was great.I love it, Keep up the great work

  20. Reply

    Great combination of words. West End is smal but very big in many ways, A definate step down memory lane.

  21. Reply

    Phil this is good. I always knew you would be a good writer. I remember those you always write.

  22. Reply

    A serene piece, taking us back to the lighter days. Parts of the poem were rather unique, to the point where I did not get it (some parts), but unique non-the-less. I wanted to see more of the water, but still a very good read. I like the title of the publication and I liked the title of your poem. Very good. I’ll read it again.

  23. Reply

    Good poem! this really brought back memories from when i was younger,fishing with my grand mother.

  24. Reply

    After your poems, Arawak Cay(my favorite) and Big Fish Bait I reckon I should call you Mr Conch. Philip your imagery is always masterly done. I always love how you take me to your memory and I feel so very connected to that scene as well as the message behind your creative composition. Once again congratulations on another one of your dexterous creations.

  25. Reply

    Your Big Brother in Denver Colorado – What a wonderful poem! I am sitting here at my desk in the office and I was literally transported back to West End and crazy corner. It really had the effect of taking me back to growing up in Old West End.

    The boy has got talent as they say; did not know you had it in you because you were always the engineer in the family.

    What an inherently Bahamian tale with markers that grounds the piece in a way that makes it undeniably Bahamian – Fish and Conch!

    Keep up the great work Bro!

  26. Reply

    Mr. Philip Armbrister,

    Is this the same Philip from Arizona State University? If yes please get in touch with me at nada@digitalfive.com.

    Your friend from Malaysia.

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