Master of the Nets

I have been known to mix my tracks with fishermen,
to watch them cast below the dam
under brass-lacquered trees,
watch them cast out into the white crush of water
where great fish heave themselves
against the froth
and then slop down into still, green pools.

I have watched them guide plaid sons
in the art of the cautious back-cast
and parry of an autumn’s manhood,
each boy’s gaze locked on a run of steelhead
that is locked in the shadow of a man.

But the fish, in a trance,
will not feed, no matter the lure;
they come only into chapped October hands
when snagged through spine or tail—
and when released, they go down,
listing, alone, into the dark.

What is needed, my friends, is a net.
None of this crisscrossing thatch of single lines
like so many grasses arcing in a rain, but a net
as vast as fields of stars
and tied with a jewel at every knot.

But then
one must be a master of the nets,
and that is not so easy.
Not so easy that kind of work,
going out alone at night
tromping along the stinking, muddy, moonlit banks,
not so easy
that wading out into the deep, dark water
to cast the broad arc of desire to its furthest reach.

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