Poet As Fisherman

I fish for words
to say what I fish for,
half-catch sometimes.

I have caught little pan fish flashing sunlight
(yellow perch, crappies, blue-gills),
lighthearted reeled them in,
filed them on stringers on the shore.
A nice mess, we called them,
and ate with our fingers, laughing.

Once, dreaming of fish in far-off waters,
I hooked a two-foot carp in Michigan,
on nylon line so fine
a fellow-fisher shook his head:
"He'll break it, sure; he'll roll on it and get away."
A quarter-hour it took to bring him in;
back-and-forth toward my net,
syllable by syllable I let him have his way
till he lay flopping on the grass—
beside no other, himself enough in size:
he fed the three of us (each differently)
new strategies of hook, leader, line, and rod.

Working well, I am a deep-water man,
a "Daredevil" silver wobbler
my lure for lake trout in midsummer.

Oh, I have tried the moon, thermometers—
the bait and time and place all by the rule—
fishing for the masterpiece,
the imperial muskellunge in Minnesota,
the peerless pike in Canada.
I have propped a well-thumbed book
against the butt of my favorite rod
and fished from my heart.

Yet, for my labors,
all I have to show
are tactics, lore—
so little I know
of that pea-sized brain I am casting for,
to think it could swim
with the phantom-words
that lure me to this shore.

by James Emanuel

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