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Fisherwoman: Two. She Loved the Sea

Fisherwoman: Two. She Loved the Sea

By Gillian Bickley

On 7 April 2007, the first sea funerals were held in Hong Kong waters for city residents. ¹

“She loved the sea and often caught fish here.”

Yes, I suppose you would. Love it, I mean.
Familiarity can breed love.
And how could one work on the sea,
for hours, days, years, a lifetime,
and not like what one does?

A solitary fisher, perhaps. Thinking of the fish.
Focused on the water, the tides, wind, and other weather.
Perhaps in the calm dwelling on self and family.

A Christian funeral, so a Christian lady.
A Christian family, it seems;
for her tearful daughter spoke of Easter
and God’s Easter will.

To be a fisherwoman and a Christian too!
To hear the story of Christ’s walk on water!
To know that the first disciples
whom Christ called
were fishermen too!
To know how He said to them,
“I will make you fishers of men”!
That, to one of them, Christ said,
“On this rock I will build my church.”

To hear the story of the empty nets
miraculously filled.
The story of the loaves and the fishes
and the feeding of the five thousand.

How close she would feel to it all!

And, if she ever went to the town,
to the cathedral there,
saw the tribute to all fishers of fish
glowing in stained glass still,

how cherished she would feel,

or, if modest, as I think fisher folk must be,
perhaps too much exposed.

But what would she make of the story
of the Gadarene swine?
Hearing how devils entered a herd of pigs,
who rushed to the edge of a cliff,
fell over, and drowned in the sea,

did she ever wonder
if there were devils in the flotsam and jetsam
she must frequently have increasingly seen
in the formerly clear deep waters,
always once reflecting the sky?

And, her ashes floating as her boat once did,
buoyant on the kindly rocking waves,
sinking down through the depths,
settling among the lobsters she used to catch,
will she be affronted by harsh-coloured plastic,
sharp tins and glass? Or will she know that the sea
will redeem them too? The movement of water on glass,
take away its edge. Rust, eat up the tin.
Plastic, colonized by mollusks, seaweed and small shoals.

As for those in peril on the sea, will she reflect
that all dangers are now at an end
for her?

¹ Loretta Fong, “Ashes of 11 scattered in first sea funeral,” SCMP, 8 April 2007, “National.” According to this article, waters off Tap Mun, Tung Lung Chau, the West Lamma Channel, and The Brothers (near Lantau) have been designated by the Government for the casting of ashes.


a photo of Gillian Bickley

Gillian Bickley was born and educated in the United Kingdom. An academic, editor, poet, and publisher, Bickley has taught English literature and language in various parts of the world, including Nigeria, New Zealand, and China. Recently retired from Hong Kong Baptist University but still based in Hong Kong, Bickley is a co-founder and co-director of Proverse Hong Kong and co-established the International Proverse Prize. She has five poetry collections, including, most recently, Perceptions.

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