— Doug Nelson

As I did when I was younger,
I checked my equipment, its condition and its operation,
the deception of choice was chosen
and I ran through the checklist of the skills I’d not used in five years.

I carefully tied a hook with feathers bound and glued to it
Onto a gossamer spider’s thread
With not just any knot, but the right improved clinch knot
And with a twitch of the wispy rod’s tip
I sent it out onto the water.

False casts are when you tilt the rod back in your wrist, and
let the line elongate behind you
and with just the right motion (it’s all in the wrist)
You send it out away from you, as many times as you need
to place it ever so gently
atop the surface tension and floating pollen.

When my dad’s friend, Alston, taught me how to fish,
he laughed as I flailed around with my whole arm.
He said, “Do this, keep your elbow down on your knee and just use your wrist.

As I sat at the army’s radio or filled sandbags,
as I fished in my in my near sleep
I used just my wrist.

Today, drifting with the tide in a johnboat on a creek off the Chickahominy
I placed the fly, every time, right by the log, right in the little pool, sliding it off the lily pad.

The breeze on my face like her kiss,
the darting of swallows low over the water,
the clarinet trill of a redwing blackbird
and the fecund scent of the mud of marshes
brought me up short.

I am alive.

I left the bream, the bass who eats them, and the catfish who eats everything else
to feed, to spawn, to swim and to live
In peace.
I reeled in my line and put the rod down on the boat seats.
I was done.


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