Monday, April 5, 2010

Holding Your Mouth Just Right

This is the "poem" version of catching my first fish. Enjoy!

Holding Your Mouth Just Right

At six, I still hadn’t caught a fish,
not even one. But I was determined
my drought would turn to rainbows,
sometime in July on Birch Creek.

As spring slipped into summer,
we headed out late one night,
stuffed ourselves in sleeping bags,
cramped in tents,
and waited for sunrise.
Next morning, while others sat
on army-green camp stools,
poking the fire with green willows,
waiting breakfast, I stuffed
my band-aid box full
of night crawlers, headed downstream,
but not too far from camp.

Dad had said once that to catch fish
you had to hold your mouth just right.
I couldn’t figure out what that meant;
so just out of sight of camp,
I kneeled behind a big sage
brush, let the words tumble out,
and prayed to God
that he might let me
catch a fish. I didn’t want to be
the only first grader
without a fish story
when I enrolled in the fall.

Words cast to Heaven, I sneaked
from behind the sage,
pretending I had lost something,
threaded ½ of the worm on a #6 hook,
and tossed it upstream in the swirling water,
let it carry to the big hole.
For a moment it caught–
probably some snag at the bottom.
But then the jerking started,
and I yanked, hard, the line flying
behind me, hook and all,
and a trout, landing smack dab
just beyond the sage
where I had prayed.

Dropping the pole like a weight,
I rushed back, grabbed the fish
with both hands, headed for camp,
yelling that I finally caught a fish.
They all greeted me, gathered around,
like I’d been a way a decade or two,
a prodigal son returned,
but now with fish in hands,
my mouth held just right.