Elizabeth Bishop, “The Fish”

I looked into his eyes / which were far larger than mine / but shallower, and yellowed, / the irises backed and packed / with tarnished tinfoil / seen through the lenses / of old, scratched isinglass.

If we let her, Bishop can teach us how to see. Who else looks into the eye of a fish and gets all this? She’s not romanticizing here, just giving us those eyes with their “tarnished tinfoil.”

This whole poem is an act of seeing, but I like this sentence in particular because it is the moment when the speaker sees the fish’s eyes as if for the first time. And isn’t that what we all need to do–to see the person, place, or thing in front of us anew?

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