Fish Demon

Tony Blair and the Fish Demon

Clicking on this morning’s news
Told me something I had already suspected
For quite a while
Tony Blair knew about the Fish Demon
The headline in bold print
Undeniable at last
Before then, it was nothing but a strand of myth
Leaked memos from civil servants hinting at the existence of the “F. D.”
The occasional blank on interview transcripts
Inferences made from analysis
Of the former PM’s summer reading list

The Fish Demon strikes at the heart of parliament
It was ageless
First mentioned in manuscripts
From the time of Cromwell
Scales and skin bulging with hairs and grave-dirt
There was a dead one in a provincial museum in East Anglia
“Found in a service-chest in the wreck of the Clipper Phoenix”
Pronounced the yellowing legend
But along with fading flags
Stuffed bitterns
And intricate model ships
The museum was destroyed by the fire
As the new millennium dawned

Have you ever counted
The ships that went missing
In the curious decade of Cool Britannia?
From Diana to the dawn of Chilcott
Hundreds of vessels foundered with scant explanation

When Cook’s heart gave out on hillside
What message was imparted
From scaly claw on wrist
And vivid glowing eyes in papery face?

Fish demon!

This is a more ancient magic
A spin before Sedgefield and the ceremony of the keys

At night we slunk into palatial mansions with refuse sacks at our waist
Outsourced the contents of the paper shredder
Parts of A Journey that were never destined for human gaze
How deep do these roots go?
When does the initiation rite begin?

Chamberlain’s final diary entry
Is scrawled and paranoid
A crabbed hand smears and blots the paper
The talk of “that which speaks” is horrifically ambivalent
And finally when words fail
He drew a crow
Scratchy and indistinct
But indisputably a crow

Round the back of Chequers in two thousand and two
(and I was still a young man then)
The estate meets a straggly copse
And we sifted a pyre
Charred cones of frankincense on metal dishes
Bones that were later identified as those of a shearwater
The rest is ash and mystery

Tony wore a sharks tooth round his neck
And never replaced his shoes
Whilst they were restored
By the drop-in cobbler
He padded No. 10 in argyle socks
What mysteries did these footwear witness?
What sanctums did he reverentially enter?
What unholy truth was revealed?
What has awakened from slumber?

The headline is confusing and vague
At public meetings
When I speak of the Fish Demon
I am hushed by complicit crowds
No-platformed by the chair
Editors return my articles unread
They are all in this together

But now, finally,
No doubt as a result of my relentless campaigning
The truth is out
And I click
To share the good news.

Refreshing the page
It hits me
A bold Error 404 fills the screen
It is as if the article was never there at all
And mocked by silence
Having touched at the truth with fingertips
I should have known
The establishment always wins in the end.


I wrote this a couple of months ago. I’m not really sure where any of it came from – I’ve been muttering “Tony Blair knew about the fish demon” to myself for quite a while, and the rest of the poem just arrived fully formed. It’s pretty depressing, and even more so after the election. The establishment always wins in the end, fish demon or no fish demon. Although I’m inclined to think the fish demon is indeed behind it all.

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