Thomas Mitchell: “I Used to Fish with My Father”


When we fished, he worked the pond,
as I sat at the back of the green wooden skiff
running the six-horsepower Sears and Roebuck
outdoor motor, careful to keep the boat
away from tangles of reeds, hidden branches,
while my father handled the bamboo rod
with the precision of a machinist, every
once in awhile letting the line go limp,
before setting the drag on the Penn spinner,
tightening his grip in a series of well maneuvered
motions, waiting for just the right moment
to set the hook. At night he cleaned the Perch
by the light of the campfire or moon,
as he picked up a machete and, starting
from the lower dorsal fin, sliced upward
toward the back of the fish’s head,
then along both sides of the armored skin,
through the gut sack, removing the entrails,
tossing the insides into the brackish water
where they sank to the muddy bottom,
while he washed the white fillets in a pail,
smoking his pipe, and looking
into the night sky.

Thomas Mitchell’s writing has appeared in a number of journals including New England Review, New Letters, Quarterly West, Chariton Review, New Orleans Review, and Cloudbank. A collection of poetry, The Way Summer Ends, was released by Lost Horse Press in 2016. His new book of poems, Caribou, is scheduled for publication in the spring of 2018.

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