Albert Pertalion

Tannic water

Sky-scraping cypresses

Lofty limbs

Cathedral light-columns

Dropping moccasins

Alligator nostrils

Pirogue and paddles

Fly rod and spinners

Black gnats and cat-gut

Green trout


This poem is about a swamp where I fly fished into my twenties. A true swamp, it nevertheless had an open feeling. The light coming into the darkness was like shafts of light in European cathedrals. The water was dark, but not muddy. The green trout were really small mouth bass, but the locals called them “green trout.” Moccasins would plop off a limb and aggressively swim toward the pirogue we fished from. I killed many with the paddle. The fly bait was a wet fly (black gnat) we used with a very tiny spinner and trailing a sliver of cat-gut. No fly fisherman ever uses a spinner except in the Southern Louisiana swamps. The most an alligator would let us see were two black nostrils, just above the water line. After we cooked the bass late in the day and ate them, we took small wooden stools down by the water, sat, listened to the silence.

“Cathedral Swamp” was published in the 2013 edition of The Labletter and as a Monthly Note in May 2013.

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