On the river, where the ripple crests
part and link, a crappie's nerved lip
has nipped a circle into the surface,
and that wavefront reaches out
for a second and vanishes, exchanges
its perfect geometry for another that runs
slipping over itself, lapping up on silt
and earthed-over mouths of drainpipes.
If I have come here alone to throw
a bright hook and two lead tokens,
and if I handle the reel in fits
and finally settle the rod between stones,
know I have no talent or use for fishing.
I trust dumb luck that no cat or bass
will bother me with its need
to bite, that it will curve ever downward
and knit itself among the shadows of other fish
and the gloom of concrete pylons, swimming.
I don't care who you are. You are traffic.
Your shape, man or woman or simple child,
breaks up in sunlight. Even sunlight joins
the weave of the river, and the metal can
you rest upon that bridge rail catches
my eye only once. The glint winks out.
Boys used to cast their lines up there
and haul up flat, gray sunfish to take home
sewn together at the gills. I haven't seen
those fishers or their shellacked bamboo,
not in a while, not on this acidic river
where the last of the fish and the strongest algae
metabolize and reproduce under willows.
And if I look up and you have walked on
parallel to the family vans and tankers
marked with logos of fire, then another crappie
has nipped the water in the corner of my eye.
You, me, the fish, the water: we're scot free.