Limits of Spectacle Lake
--in memory of my father
When the sun had slipped behind the hills
I said, let’s go back. Forget this business of lures and lines
and casting so far the eye could hardly follow the thread
out to snag a rainbow’s lip. Afraid we’d lose our way
and soon our boat would spin and sink.
There we’d sit eye to eye with a million trout.
When I was eight I caught my limit. But not before my father
turned the boat to shore and let out one last line
for luck. I held that rod for all the hope left
reeling in the wake. I pulled those fish
from tangled, churning light slipping underhand.
Six rainbow trout.
I don’t know who was more the spectacle that night --
the lake, me, or my father gently guiding the pole
between my unbelieving hands. Somehow he trusted
in the end of all filtering light. When he died
the next winter, I remembered six fish
laid out stiff on a plank of wood.
Eye to eye with the dead, in the wake
of the boat, I learned the limits,
the last ripple of life in a dying fish.
(A poem from my youth: this dates back to 1980.)