LGBTQ Magazine

A Summertime Poem: Stories Are What We Have

Posted on the 11 August 2013 by William Lindsey @wdlindsy
A Summertime Poem: Stories Are What We Have
You catch it, you clean it:
My father's invariable rule.
No matter how bone-tired,
From the day of fishing,
We scaled and gutted our fish.
II.
Except that one time,
When the man who made a living
Cleaning fish in the river bottoms
Did the dirty work for us.
That river rat
My mother dismissively called him.
He worked on a rough plank wharf
Onto a slough backing from the dark river,
Green cypress feathers arching overhead,
Wild razorbacks rooting for heads and guts
He threw into the water as he worked.
It was alive, the water was,
With voracious swine
Wrestling with alligator gars and water moccasins
For the fresh offal
Rained free from the wharf.
III.
A tiny world,
A world complete,
Now vanished everywhere but in my mind,
Where it remains as real, as whole
As if I'm there now
Beside the thrashing water,
Amidst the hogs and gars and writhing snakes
That constitute the substance of my memory.
IV.
Yes, that's my story
And I'm sticking to it.
When we lose our stories
After all
We lose everything we have.
The picture is from the website of Moro Bay State Park in Arkansas, and captures the scenery along the bottom of the Ouachita River in Union County in which my father and brothers and I fished frequently as I was growing up. A series of videos at YouTube by a fisherman named ttenni provides fascinating video coverage of the same areas, and this one, in particular, shows scenes very much like those I remember from our fishing excursions--though I don't remember anything like the cacophony of sounds included in this video.

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