Posts Tagged ‘fishing’




The days lasted for years back then.

Summer was a lifetime.


He took me out on the lake in our boat

and when we had reached the deeper waters

he’d cut the motor and we’d set the anchor.


The waves made blue conversation with the hull.

There were weeds, I am sure. There always were,

in green profusion floating along the surface.


We would have dug for earthworms that morning

beneath a weed pile in the shade

of the weeping willow.

Now he pulled them out of the can

and guided my hands to string their thick,

pink bodies along the hooks.


We cast and sat. Perhaps we talked.

The red and white bobbers translated

what might be happening below.


We pulled up bluegills, crappies, sunfish,

and perch and threw the larger ones into the bucket

of lake water we used to keep them alive until supper.


Then I caught a drum, and my father’s eyes

glittered like sun on the swells. He pulled

out his knife and carved into the fish

just above the gills.


From the flesh, from the blood, from the death

he withdrew two flat white stone-like things—

otoliths, he said. They were strangely polished,

smooth and shiny, like pearls, like ivory.


He dropped them into my hand. I received them

as treasure, pronouncing the strange word

over and over. Otoliths. Otoliths.

I did not yet know that beautiful things

don’t last.


I held them in my hand the whole ride home.

They are gone, decades ago. What remains

is what I choose to remember—

the scent of the lake rising up. The

slapping of the waves. The diamonds

in my father’s eyes when he realized

he could share with me a secret

about beauty and its hiding places.


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and yet you will weep, and know why
—Gerard Manley Hopkins, “To a Young Child: Spring and Fall”

I don’t remember if the lake outside the window
was open or frozen, but I remember the way my mother
guided my bangs away from my eyes as she said,

“Your grandpa Chuck has died.” I had already learned,
perhaps even from him, to gut and skin bluegills and bass.
I’d strung worms like pink garland on empty hooks,

but I’d not yet considered the death of men.
I sensed something sharp rising in my throat then,
what?—something that scraped its length.

Water dammed at the bottoms of my eyes. “Mommy,” I said,
“I think I’m going to cry.” I remember being surprised.
“Oh my darling,” she said, “That’s right. That’s okay.”

I did not know then how many more tears would find me,
how familiar the tug at my throat would become. With each death
of a loved one, sometimes even with strangers, I feel it,

the barb of the hook as it sets, the sharp ache, the yank
as strong hands begin to reel in the invisible line
pulling me toward the horizon.

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