I’m not fishing but pretend
I am. The narrator is.
He casts, reels, recasts. Clouds move
along the surface of the river.
A worm has died on the hook, pinched
through corduroy segments.
The sun is low, sliced through
by branches. It’s morning or evening.
The fish are hungry, feeding on bugs
touching down. What would it be like to be good-natured?
Winged insects make their pitched noise. It fades
in time. Someone should come tell me everything
—whatever that is—is going to be OK. I’m so lonesome
I could do whatever it is men do instead of cry. Water pushes past.
The top shelf of the tackle box top shelf holds
red and white bobbers, hooks, nearly invisible line—that beautiful technology
that made monsters dance and spaceships fly in young Hollywood.
The bottom is full of ice and beer. Life is decent in brief moments,
when the right combination of activities happen at the right time
and my head falls away. The noise I’ve been hearing is traffic, not bugs. Shit—not me,
the narrator. His car sits on the side of the road with its side mirror twisted in.
There are ruts in the ground where the tires chewed into the grass. It rained overnight.
The narrator heard it in his sleep. But the river isn’t running higher than usual.
The water must have ran off, gathered somewhere far away. The theme of this poem
is loss. This water is the same water that has always rained and run through rivers
and given life to the plants. At least, probably? Sometimes, these days,
it gets bottled. Sits on a shelf in the narrator’s apartment and gets offered
to the occasional visitor. The narrator, alone or with someone, fills his glass from the tap.
It tastes of minerals. Some sort of metal. He worries about the state of the pipes.
Fish have been known to swim into the sewers and right up into people’s toilets.
They are small fish, and they get flushed back down or scooped out,
washed with sink water, and eaten. It depends on whose toilet they travel into.
The authorities demand to be notified and do nothing about the notifications.
The narrator is thirsty. He is always thirsty. It is thirsty work, fishing.
He reaches into the ice for a beer. There’s that noise again: rooting through ice
for something cold. The fish eat the bugs and leave the worms alone.
Sam Price lives in Pennsylvania.
image: Kelsey Zimmerman is a writer and artist from Michigan currently living in Iowa. Her work is published or forthcoming in Nurture: A Literary Journal, Ghost City Review, Unlost Journal, and The Indianapolis Review.