Under his hammer-bent fingernail,
he dips chew. I bite
my already-bit lip. Hooded
eyes size up my hand-me-downs:
faded Keds, the frayed cuffs
of my cutoffs.
Fish bite best when it’s quiet,
my grandfather insists. I nod, silent.
A night crawler hangs
from my finger, above my moonstone. I dangle
him, dropping him
into the Folger’s can, filled
with crab grass and roots
his line low. Weeping
willows stretch for its thread, floating
like water nymphs.
His field spaniel ambles
about. Tired of fish and lures, he flushes
blue-winged teal, jumps
into the thicket, its brambles.
Burrs spur his withers, his curly coat. He shimmies, scratching
his nose. Rarely quiet, he growls.
My grandfather shifts on a fallen birch.
He reels in a real beaut—a plump
prairie trout. He tosses
her back, recasting
his line. He sneaks
a smoke. The trout’s
angry. I wade
in. Her underbelly splinters
like sparks of mica, like slices
of kiwi and red papaya.
at her gaping gills, angling
to retrieve her--
the least impressive--
the one that was not quite gold,
but a dull gray chrome.
Originally published in This Land, Spring 2016