My Father and Hemingway Go Fishing
Both of them would rather fish alone, but Hem asks
about the good spots here in the Antrim Chain,
a few miles from Walloon, so my father gets up
way before dawn, before he is my father, and rows
to the Ellsworth bridge where Hem is already
fiddling with his canvas pack. My father says get in.
This is the double-oared rowboat, so they both
row, ker-flunk, ker-flunk, oars in the locks in the dark.
They row through Benway, Wilson, the Green River.
Nothing can touch them, no one is up. One war
is over and another has not begun. When the sky
lightens, they can see each other, outline first,
both of them strong-jawed, dark, gorgeous,
but Hemingway does not know he is Hemingway
and my father does not know he is my father.
They scarcely know they are together because it is
the fish they want. It is better to have a third thing.
They are almost at the mouth of Six Mile Lake,
the blips on the surface, quick roiling underneath.
The bank is the cedar swamp with the cedars
slanted across the stream that in the stories are going
to stand for all the banks and all the streams.
The scholars will be climbing around, verifying.
They will say no, not this one. But there is the bottle
of grasshoppers, even dark ones, from a fire.
And their trousers are rolled and wet.
Who is to say that my father was not erased
from this later? Who is to say that they ever wished
to be together eternally? It was never anything
but the fish, the heaviness, the power, not to be
held, then held. Years after, even with me
in the boat, trying to cast my small line out, trying
to get one word of praise, it was the fish. I blame it
on Hemingway, and the cold water that pulled
the heart-blood inward, to steady its own small craft.
Poems from No Need of Sympathy