by Jamie L. Dea
Wooden fingers, numb from hours grasping the rod,
find brief familiarity in my father’s own
aching hands as he clasps them over mine.
Dirt creates a barrier between the pink and white
of our fingernails, like smiles
grinning out from under blackened gums.
The cold carves into my joints as I hold the wrangling mass
of scales and fins and lidless marble eyes.
My knife in its gut cuts a jagged mouth,
breathing in air to replace
whatever it is that gave this thing life.
Goosebumps and dead fish flesh vanish in the abrasive caress of
blood slipping down my palm, wrist, brushing my sleeve.
Plunk, plunk, plunk on the boat’s white-washed boards,
it’s mine, and the fish’s, cooling against clammy flesh
and rigid morning breath
wrapping like river reed.
If I grasp the edge of the little boat,
smearing the day’s only warmth along the splintered
wood smelling of stale lake water, frigid rain drops
and coppery fish guts,
silt from the bank, coating boots that stood in placid shallows as we pushed off;
if I tip myself over, breath in the murk, unfathomable,
the algae waltzing star shine in obscure shafts of sunlight,
human consciousness would slip away,
fleeting, water across my slick silver sides.