A Conversation

Stink-bait, rooster tail,
cricket, night crawler,
shad minnow jigging
on a slack crappie pole,
the river water coffee
black & our trolling motor
treading the cup of it—
a sugar spoon swirling
in the pitch-dark.
My stepfather shuffling
through stacks of lures
buried in tackle boxes,
the two of us casting so far
past dusk we learned
to speak with only our eyes
I’m dying, slow as headwater,
his say. Skillet fish flopping
in ten gallon paint buckets,
water popping like the grease
when they fry. & later him
god-damning the scaly skins,
picking tiny bones away
from the spines, fillet knife
slipping, drawing blood
from the pink-white crappie
flesh. At the stilted trailer—
fish-camp by the river—
cleaning meat in a rusted sink,
we toss carcasses, whole,
toward the river—each one
limp as his cancerous liver,
hepatoma cells dredging
his gut—the mound
of their bodies piled
shy of the water, buzzards
circling to scrap what’s left.

By Dean Julius

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