Saturday, May 3, 2014

Fourth of July

f o u r t h  o f  j u l y

The rest were absorbed by crowds round the huge
cherry trees, or on the impromptu volleyball court,
or touring the huge gardens, or tasting,

in hot sun, microbrews found floating
in icy washtubs. The boy, who never mixed well,
wandered off to sit in shade alone, a brown study.

To him I gravitated, not crowd-pleased myself,
and said: In the car's trunk there are two rods,
and the creek is still high; perhaps along the bank

we can find bait. He had never, in his ten years,
caught fish, as he often reminded me, but I
had never found the time. I found the time.

We slunk away, and stalked along the country road
deep in shade of hemlocks, cedars, and bigleaf,
looking for a way steep-down, with vine maples

and giant ferns to cling to. Below, the sun burned
on golden unmown hay, lodged by the frequent passage
of quite untroubled blacktailed bucks with harems.

We found the place, and bushwhacked through
to where the icy water rippled over bedrock
beneath the old-growth alders. All there

was just so, with a good pool every fifty feet,
black with promise. I looked for caddis larvae,
turning over stones, and finding nothing,

but the boy quick of eye and hand leaped up
with a tiny crawdad clutched. I gently took
and threaded the sacrificial creature on the shank

of the gleaming, tiny hook. I glossed over the pain,
as so many have done before me,
of this small life, quickly casting hook,

life, and split shot expertly into riffle
just above a pool half-lost in willow branches.
I handed him the rod. He sulked: It won't work,

I'll never catch a fish, and this creek's
too small. I said, do not misjudge it. The trout
winter here, and are not driven by the sun

to the river's deeper pools till later on.
There will be several in that hole, and one
of them will be big. He watched the willows,

the dappled banks, the far pasture, passing birds,
and me; I watched the line. It zigged. Pull!
I shouted, and the boy hauled back, more

in startlement than skill; I itched to snatch
the rod from him. Reel in, reel in, pull back,
give him slack, now reel! I was beside myself,

and so was the lad. The fish fought well, then
gave up at our feet, reeled on to land. We
slacked line, and I knelt and slipped my hand

along the back, so as not to get caught on hackles,
and disengaged the hook. I whispered: this
is a rainbow trout; see the colors as I turn her

in the sun. The boy stroked the big trout gently,
and solemnly announced: I have caught a fish.
We waded through the riffle to let her go;

but she was tired all through, and rolled
over, showing white. I gave the boy the way
to turn trout right, facing upstream, until

they catch their wet breath and swim away unaided.
He helped the fish, and stood up rich in life; then,
reluctant to break the moment and go back,

we stood together, silent as two trees.

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