Fishermen at sea, 1796 by JMW Turner
As a youth he learned
how watercolours spill
through canvas grain and weight,
now oils shiver in his hands.
He paints the waves
clear enough to glow
yet with such thump and throw
that they could snap apart
these men upon the rocks
or upturn their craft and fill their throats:
it’s a hungry skill to steer at night
and grasp the fish to string out life.
Four fishermen, hunkered in their boat,
sodden, sullen, red-raw hands yanking
at a rope or deftly parting guts
and flesh, sail unaware across
the starting line of Turner’s flight
from solid land to paint with light, just light.