A Fisherman’s Story

I walked to the edge and felt, no knew I could go no further. Between us there is a welcome chasm.


How does language hook on to the world?

                                                      –   Ludwig Wittgenstein

        I walked to the edge and felt, no
        knew I could go no further.
        Between us there is a welcome chasm.
        Take this river where, for so many years, I fished.
        From the shallows I can cast out
        into the current beyond the shelf,
        mend the line, and let my dry fly with a nymph
        dangling drift into the eddy downstream,
        out of the light and under the trees,
        where I see them rising evening after evening,
        the tug, the flick that sets the hook,
        the careening downstream the leap the flailing,
        the whine of the reel running into the backing,
        and then the joyful struggle—until
        one day I sat on the bank and imagined it,
        and regretted all the pain I had caused,
        regretting the joy I took in causing harm;
        the voice from the radio I kept on for company
        implored—implored what, exactly?
        The point of this remote place is the distance
        we keep from others that not one of us begrudges;
        we are strangers to each other,
        and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
        No one aloud or in private wonders
        why I no longer wade above the shady places,
        or wait for dusk and cast from shore
        into the shallows; at dusk ornery rainbows
        venture out from beneath the shelf,
        but it was the reel that screamed
        when they were hooked, not they.
        No one wonders why I don’t regale
        them with the stories of their capture or escape;
        we are incurious about our neighbors.
        Even if our bumpers touch
        at the gas station, and even if we rehash
        this inadvertent unintentional contact in detail
        we remain, by consent, remote. Neither their words
        nor the world can get their hooks into me
        as we contemplate this ongoing drought
        that brought the deer out of the woods into the streets,
        and the rattlers to the banks of the river.
        Their rattles’ incessant warning makes me think
        they are at home among us.
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