Casting the Current
I waited hours on the bank while
Dad kept trying for a couple browns.
He was far downstream when
the first big drops cratered the water.
All afternoon, the dark bruise
of a storm had been closing in over
the hills, but he waded out farther
with the rushing current, casting long,
slow loops over the ripples,
some lifted by breezes, others blown
aside like a bird in a gust of wind.
Cigarette dangling, he moved carefully,
shifting his footing around
slippery rocks, past slopes that fell away
in darkness below, someone lost
in the deliberate moments of his work,
someone who knew how suddenly
the river can put everything in its place.
Even when the sky upstream
in the canyon started growling, he stayed
out there, a man still looking
for what was always missing, reeling in
one empty line after another
as the rain blustered across the current,
as the water beneath him pulled
harder, cutting deeper into bedrock.
My uncles crowded around
the truck, joking. I was looking
down at the galvanized tubs
of crushed ice full of whiting
snagged out of the Chesapeake.
Somebody reckoned the catch
must be six or seven dozen,
but Uncle Clete said it had
to be close to a hundred. He
snapped his Zippo shut, took
a long drag on his cigarette.
The smoke drifting from him
into the rainy spring evening
was blue like the icy fish eyes
staring up at me. Everything
then got still as those mouths
lying open in the lifeless air,
still as the tired men resting
a moment in their thoughts,
the yellow windows waiting
up at the house. Nothing was
left of the slippery bank they
slid down, the day’s struggle
of arms and breath to bring
the tubs of fish back up from
the beach, the drive home
in hard, blowing rain. All of it
had slipped off with the gray
rags of clouds in bleak sky.
Soon the house too would
darken with their sleep, fade
with the stubbled faces, thick
hands surrendered on pillows.
Everything quiet as the moon
above the current pushing,
pulling the cold gray Atlantic.
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