My Father and Hemingway Go Fishing

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.