Sunday, December 11, 2016


There is a small pond
near my house, and in
the evenings when the
wind is high and the
sky is alit with the blinking
traffic of a nearby airport,
I go walking.

There are seldom people
at my pond, not in the evenings
when the young and the old
are both in varying degrees of
sleep. The night hours are
reserved for the middle-aged
who without child or parent
to make demands can
stretch their legs and
beat the beaten path.

I share my pond only
with the barking dogs who
eye me suspiciously through
iron gates and the ducks that
land and take-off like the
nearby planes and their Morse-
code murmurings.

I did not start walking to be
alone, but somehow, each night,
I am. The sweeping sound of my
sweatpant legs a light percussion
in an orchestral performance whose
audience is one bald bearded man--

Not particularly sad, not
particularly glad.

Just walking.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


In September of 2016
I caught a spotted brown
trout in the Davidson River
just south of Ashville.

I was using a dry fly,
they later told me. We
had been fishing near
a hatchery. The water
was clear but slow.
The river, it seemed,
was crawling. Among
the stones and logs,
we could see several
fish darting in and out
of pockets of light.

I flicked the thin rod
to my left and right,
setting the end just
up river of a nice 20”
sleeper. She moved to
the right as the hook
drifted by. We played
the same game three, four,
five times, and she, like as though
choreographed, would move aside.

While watching the monster
of this Pigsah forest stream,
my hook and tippet drifted
down river to a  small covey
of spotted brown trout.

As I saw the striker dip
beneath the surface of the
water, I pulled up on the
top of the pole. The hook
set, and the fish swam
quickly upstream. I held
the slack of the line and
pulled her under control.

Her track became smaller
as she swam to my left
and right. My friend
slapped me on the back
as he dipped a net just
beneath the snagged fish.

I reached in to take the
fish with my bare hand.
I lifted it, and it fell back
into the net.  I took a picture.
I tried to work the hook
out of its lip. The line broke.

With help, I took the hook
out before setting the fish
back in the river. The
fish, a delicate creature, I
was later told, did not move.
I saw it turning its soft
white belly to the light.
Another friend, a river guide
from Montana started waving
the fish in the water from
his left to his right. The
movement, he said, would
get oxygen to the fish’s
gills, revive her so that
she could swim again,
and she did. And then
she stopped. He once again
moved her in the water
until she started moving
on her own. She swam
upriver, and I lost her among
the light and the fallen leaves.

My friends assured me that
she would be fine, and while
small, to pull a fish from
a North Carolina stream
with a fly pole was a
worthy victory. Later, my
friend, the river guide,
sent me a trophy picture.

The fish looked small
in my hulking hands, the
unflattering pullover I wore
distorted my chest and
stomach so that I looked more
like a monster than a man.

My beard and my hat
framed a disbelief in my
eyes, and an apology pulled
my shoulders to the muddy
river bed. I prayed for the
fish like a prayed for the
dove I shot when I was 12.

I prayed in hope that my
friends were right, that
the small 8 inch trout
was swimming upstream,
recovering, telling stories of
her thin escape. Or swimming
but unaware of why she
feels something that she has
never felt, something that
we would call pain, something for which
she does not have language.

And how many times are
we too caught and thrown
back? How many times do
bare hands slide against
our skin? How many times
are we held up for pictures,
gasping in the autumn air?
How many times do they
try to take the hook out, leaving
it in as we fall back into
the net, ripping our lips
as they pry off what we
once thought was food.

How many times are we
set back into the river,
gently moved left and right,
so that we gain a little
momentum.? How often
do we not have the language
to say to others what happened,
what’s still happening?

How can we avoid the
hook when we have no
word for it? How can we
explain the pain when we
have no memory?

How can we leave the
river when there is no
word for river, no article
to suggest it is a specific one,
no verb that means “to leave?”

And how will she know,
as she swims among the stones and
dappled riverbed, that
I wrote this for her, that
I too fear being caught, that

I too, know fear is not the word?