Fall 2010 / Issues / Poetry 2010 / Volume 41

Still Fishing–William Jolliff

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.

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