As boys we knew the creeks so well
that once a choice was made to fish,
we’d almost run each other over
crossing the lots to take the best spot,
downstream, maybe, from some snag,
in the trash around a falling willow,
or in the swirl beneath the shadow of a rock.
It wasn’t that we were more greedy
than other folks, young or old, but
we were never less, never less hungry
for the motion that stops the breath.
Our needs were clear: the thrill
of a tug on the line, the way a bent rod
vibrates and makes your muscles quake,
that jiggle of life at the other end,
the way your breath rises to pause
and pause again when line goes taut.
It’s how you ache to make a sale,
large or small, whether or not it matters.
Or how you watch numbers on a pink
flamingo raffle and hold your side until
you’ve lost. Even the lift you feel when
you place a poem in a journal no one reads.
As boys we believed that things
like chance and carp and catfish matter.
Still do. Each spring we oil our reels
and dash down to the bank, the college,
the factory, the church, the post office.