It’s a rare river that flows north
in North America:
the Deschutes in Oregon is one,
it changes where I stand in relation to the sun
and how my shadow falls
into the stream.
I walk up to go down before floating a fly
across the narrowest part of the river—
I’m trying to hit a white slick of bubbles
where the summer’s hatch buzzes
over a small pool fenced by a log
and a brown trout sits facing south
feeding in the current.
I’m hoping the trout’s eye will think the hand-tied fly
is something edible and alive;
I count on his greed not his altruism
and present the fly at a speed
he might think is real.
Though my odor’s hidden by juniper and pine
my cast fails. Over and over
my guide yells out for me to “mend the line”,
so I flip a loop behind the current
and the fish hits it at once.
Startled by my luck, I freeze
and watch his graceful jump break my tippet
against the rocks.
For an hour or more I try to mend my line in the heat
until my neck grows sticky with effort.
But he fails to rise—too wily for me, I say
sitting on the grass exhausted.
He’s probably long gone from this stream anyhow,
running north with the river as fast as he can:
whether out of fear or native wisdom,
or the simple wish to keep our time together
unsoiled by blood and grief, who knows?
I hope he runs forever.
As gentle as rain combing a vineyard
your fingers rest against my neck
probing it for the nerve
that will jump start my heart.
Precise as a lathe upon my arm
you inscribe the same circle
over and over.
When your tongue curls around my finger
it’s as moist as your most secret place,
it has its own gender and history:
soft as dark velvet,
and as mysterious as space cut
from a stone;
and once your tongue inscribes its sensibility
I am gone.
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