m a u r e e n t o l m a n f l a n n e r y ~ e v a n s t o n, i l l i n o i s
CATCHING HIS DEATH
The old angler has seen a primordial form
shape-shifting in the wake of human hunger,
the way it swims, sleek and unhindered,
brilliant gills, fins glistening in the white path
of moonlight on the placid lake.
He chooses his favorite lure—
one that quivers blue-gold
as it moves through depths like an old memory.
The fish leaps free of the lake,
gleams in slanted rays of late sun,
calls his boat to the spot
where circles ripple over a calm surface.
His last catch is a worthy prize, old and cunning,
with dappled striations of blue-gray,
silver scales healed around several rusted hooks,
the snapped lines of lesser fishermen
trailing from its wide mouth like desire.
This one’s a fighter, not easy to land.
Say he sets the hook
some early pre-dawn
when it’s feeding on minnows in deep pockets of cold.
He will need to play it out 'til they are both exhausted,
reel, time after winding time, into the lowered pole,
slowly pull back,
give it just enough slack when it leaps above the surface
in the magnificent final fury of the captured,
then reel for dear life and be ready with the net.
As fervent waters urgently rose,
the townspeople moved to dry ground—
even the priest who looked back at his church
with its two gold roosters on rooftop perches
crowing their final matins
as water gurgled in their upturned throats—
until only the cross atop the steeple
could be seen of the valley town.
It is as they left it down there.
Abuelos who were told the old stories
hear sounds from the village
that now shelters fish and saturated secrets.
To this day elders in San Rafael by the Lake
wake at odd hours on a moon-dark night
to cock’s crowing from the direction of the water.
They take te de manzanilla and go back to sleep
knowing it’s the old submerged church
luring its long-dead parishioners
to watery communion under the lake.
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