BY Holly Pester in Opinion | 21 FEB 24
Featured in
Issue 241

A Slippery Poem on the Origins of Eels

Poet Holly Pester interprets our invitation from the outer depths

BY Holly Pester in Opinion | 21 FEB 24

This poem appears in the columns section of frieze 241, ‘Outer Depths

and now you’ve heard my story, señores, seen my tears flow, my ribbon fan, my limb spin wildly without taking a break, knowing the hatchery and the grave are in the same sea, and perhaps I should have ended the whole thing there but we get carried away, you see, so did you like it or was it too long? what time I began talking is a mystery, see, oh you’re standing to leave, so soon, well I’ll join you, I’ve got my silver jewellery on and a sore throat, I’m ready to go, no? no countesses, no conspiracy or poisoned flute for you, we have a mutual respect for each other, don’t we, so why the look of displeasure like you’re not sure why I’m still here? one second, I was working on a new life as I told you my story, just now, thinking of a way to swim away without looking silly, now you know the tragedy of my history and the history of my tragedy, a new life found its truth, didn’t she? the beginning of all trade routes, wasn’t it? now who’s being silly? what you thought was the point to the story was actually the prelude, the preliminary wee drill,  before you stopped recording, I wanted to be brilliant, you put me off, I was earth guts before you got your pen out, the metaphor isn’t easy but something about the origin being hidden in the middle, and the grammatical loss of gonads, and all that, makes me think, this is my feeling phase, write that would you? print that next time maybe? it would take the whole length of my body to tell it again, a sentence is only one way of committing to time, we could do it your way and look up and down an old guy’s life, turn and say ‘spool’, the body has its story and the body is a story, I too am like tape, I put great effort into my tale but the real one is our gradual disappearance, did I say that? since when? remember, this is me before the marathon, think about it, did I have grey hair in my youth? unbelievable travels in my sleep last night? was there a deadline I missed today? and then I realized I do believe in god because yesterday I drank two cups of coffee of mixed origin and answered an overseas phone call with great fluency, although I hadn’t had my children at that point, I could hear them calling me with a flexion of alphabets and, although I felt peculiar that day, I’ve been feeling for myself ever since, they say there is still a story to tell, not that I’m fixated with time, but upon receiving an invitation to the ballet, I couldn’t find my seat, was wandering up and down the aisles for hours, I missed the beginning then realized I was the leg that broke, I was the pirouette, it was my assassination on the steps outside, my ominous tone poem for a soundtrack, my association with future apes hitting me with a club and did you notice I was also the club? what is there left to say apart from toasting my drowned lovers? get an expert to release me, the iron in my head sends for my mother and my death has one fixed point, away and back to it we go.holly-pester-eel

Commissioned illustration by Anna Haifisch, 2024

This poem first appeared in 
frieze issue 241 with the headline ‘after the interview is over, she keeps going’

Main image: Sharptail Eel, undated. Courtesy: Humberto Ramirez/ Getty Images

Holly Pester is a poet and writer. Her latest novel is The Lodgers (Granta, 2024).