Fishing with my father, I learned
how to cast and reel, reel and cast, cast and reel,
the rhythm a waltz on the water. We would plop
fish back into their havens only slightly disturbed.
Cast and reel, catch and release,
cast, reel, catch, release; my father said this pattern
holds true to people and arguing and love.
In the evening he’d light the electric lantern
as we smacked away mosquitoes on the dock. One night
I could not unhook the bass from my bait;
the hook, speared through its lip, had been swallowed. Crippled
waste of a fish! My father grunts when he tugs
the line from the bass, blood caking its mouth, insides pretzeling,
body jerking, convulsing for oxygen as the slimy lure yanks free.
“He won’t last another fifteen minutes,” my father says,
and he gently places the green speckled creature in the water.
It flops into the shallows, a cloudy trail dissipating, then disappears
into the gloaming depths to die with privacy.