The Fetch of the Bass Rock

By Jane Yolen

He dances madly upon the volcanic cap

that rises out of the water,

its stony back a catchment

for gannets. And the stink.

Oh, the stink, the ghostly emanation

of elimination, a miasma of manure.

Even in the boat where we visitors ride,

we cannot be rid

of that awful smell.

But the fetch, hardy ghost

of a drowned prisoner,

is long past the horror of it,

having been swaddled and swallowed

by its stench long years ago.

So he dances through eternity,

never missing a step.

And all the visitors applaud.

It is his only salvation.


A poet since a child (and no, she won’t post those here), Jane Yolen’s first real poetry sales happened after 113 rejections, which she posted on her bedroom wall. Since then she has had 10 books of adult poetry published as well as many poems for children published in collections, anthologies, as part of novels, a novel in verse (Finding Baba Yaga), as well as a memoir of her father’s family, who immigrated to America in the early 1900s (Ekaterinoslav). All in all, she has 370 books published, including novels, graphic novels, picture books, essays, two cookbooks, 10 music books, and won many awards, one of which set her good coat on fire.