Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven?
canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?
Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds,
that abundance of waters may cover thee?
— Job 38: 33-34
Like a spirit moving through the flower
of moonlight hanging in the water,
through the depth that never warms
where carp and catfish wallow,
I can almost see the bottom of the lake,
the black bass diving,
dividing the darkness
in the feathery tissue of its gills,
as curl after curl rises from my reel and disappears
through a window's tilted frame,
around a tree stump's rotten bowl,
over a scuttled Lincoln
half-buried in the mud.
Below, clear fins fan the water,
and above, I whisper to the dark,
asking it to rise
as I wind in a foot,
then give back a yard of the line,
my finger on the filament feeling
the whittled shape of things, the gnarled
remains of another life —
a mussel-crusted fence post,
a mailbox orange with rust,
the limb of a pine where a tire once hung,
turning all afternoon on the breeze.
My rod bends towards breaking,
then straightens as the fish darts free
through the sunken junkyard
that grows by the weight of one lure
from my tacklebox, its silver spoon spinning
as I reel the snapped line back on the spool,
slack as a fallen kite string.
Published in Chattahoochee (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2004).
Published: 14 April 2009
© 2009 Patrick Phillips and Southern Spaces