Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
- Medals! We're back to the venerable fish from the beginning of the poem and now we have an even better idea of why. It's like he's been given a Medal of Honor, or something.
- But the ribbons aren't shiny and new, they're "frayed and wavering," more like battle scars than decorative ribbons.
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw,
- Wise, experienced, tough. This speaker really respects the fish.
- The speaker also recognizes the toll these battles have taken on the fish.
I stared and stared
- Well DUH. The speaker has been staring and staring this whole poem.
- This makes us a bit nervous though. The fish is out of the water, suffocating. What will the speaker do?