Fish Studying Water


Hi friends!

Here’s a poem I wrote a few years ago, going after an especially difficult and subtle problem. How do we become aware of the medium in which we are suspended?

We can sort of see air indirectly, with a flag or blowing leaf.
But what about the culture we’re all soaking in?

This piece also needs a double thank you to Idries Shah. First for his memorable and useful quote about the problems of “Fish studying water” – and then also the demonstration in so much classical Sufi poetry, that friendship is a sublime form of love – and function and insight are not just great fuel, but worthy poetic themes!

“Fish Studying Water” is from “Night Song for Cigar-Box Banjo” from Large Ess Small Press



  1. Phew!!! We learn a new thing everyday and will never know everything… We are in constant change… That’s what makes us who we are… Other cultures, peoples and beliefs make us stronger and wiser… Knowing another language makes us more intelligent. Be it a romance or semitic language or a poetical or artistic visual language… Life would be boring if we all thought and dressed the same… Difference makes life interesting, constructive criticism makes us think beyond our own high walls, makes a hole in them to reconstruct more sturdily or maked us build a door or a wall where I the hole is… We write and rewrite our heroic story every day and it is our friends and loved ones who help and assure it is so… Even our enemies have a place… From a little fish in a huge ocean…

    • Thank you sincerely for that thoughful comment, Lucinda! It’s really great to know that these themes resonate just the way I hoped (and call up deep meanings in others). I think one of the most surprising things I have learned which holds up, is that those feelings and questions we all hold inside and rarely share, are actually the things we all have most in common!.

      Great point about enemies too – our western idea that good and evil are opposites rather than eternally linked and always turning into one another (the way many other cultures see it) gets us into all sorts of trouble, based on false hopes in the ‘cake and eat it’ category. Some adversaries do us great damage, but some challenge us to build the skills we need the most. (Bullies are lousy human beings in all kinds of ways, but true experts on weakness).

      Thanks so much for your reflections – and for bothering to share!
      All the best

      • Paul

I am always curious about what you are thinking

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