poetry by j matthew waters

Archive for the category “Fishing”

the task at hand

listen carefully
the birds in the air are many
and you’re missing so many of them

in another life you were
a cardinal or a crow or a sparrow
going about your fabulous business
as if there’s no tomorrow

but of course you don’t
remember those days other
than a song or two or three
that for some reason keep
challenging your long term memory

tomorrow it will be monday
which means you’ll be fishing again
casting your line at lock & dam thirteen
and forgetting about the past
only focused on the task at hand

july two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

putting the wheels in motion

it’s past midnight
but the night is still young
well lit by a fattening moon

we meet by chance at the ranch
you arriving unannounced
me home on spring break
a few grain belts and half pack of
winstons all that’s left

we’re not exactly using our inside voices
but whoever happens to be here
is fast asleep on the second floor

it’s so much easier
to keep the lights on than not
easier to fuel up in the kitchen before
hitting the road for the river
a quick stop along the way
a twelve-pack and smokes
and whatever it is the man says
the catfish are striking

february two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

the way back

I imagine it’s simpler than it seems
especially if you don’t have to
think about it for too long

it’s not the first I’ve tried
to make it all the way back
each time punctuated by chance

oh no not this time I would exclaim
hanging out along the shoreline
casting out a couple lines

who in the world would be
calling at this hour I’m inclined to say
suddenly wondering who if anyone
will remember that

february two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

in this sacred place

temperatures hovering around zero
for a good ten days now
it’s mid january and we’re so ready
to walk on ice

you don’t have to go out too far
these days to touch the sky
it’s all about augering through
letting the water breathe again
one little inspiration at a time

there’s nothing here to miss
except a warmer sun
and that southern breeze
the kind that keeps the raptors
from circling lower and lower

with each catch we do a little dance
and pass around the flask
perhaps like they once did
some five hundred years ago
in this sacred place

january two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

fish and toast on sunday morning

and then there were just
the two of us
yielding to the god of wine
on the back deck
minutes before sunrise

the rest said
they were going down to the river
to see if the catfish were biting

that was at least a couple of hours ago

they took with them the last of the red
but I said do not worry darling
we’ve yet to open the last of the white

october two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

age of aquarius

wherever I go I’m bound by water
whether rivers or lakes
streams or ponds
always near as I move
from place to place
following me like the pale moon

it’s as if I was born to dream
of rod and reel
license and stamp
walking along little mill
tackle box in hand
searching for that perfect pool
where freshwater trout
gather to stay cool

I’m told the age of aquarius
is subject to interpretation
though for some reason I believe
I’m alive in its midst
the month of march always
bringing me luck
while the constellation pisces
remains slightly out of reach

august two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

I left my phone charging back home

my father grew up near the spoon river
[named after a fictional illinois town]
and only lately have I wondered
if as a boy he’d fish for channel cat there
something he loved to do in his retirement
at lock and dam 14 on the mississippi

here I stand hundreds of miles away
casting my line into the wapsipinicon
[named by the chippewa after aquatic
plants they called ‘swan potatoes’]
my eyes focused on the shiny spinner
my mind rewinding and fast forwarding

I’ve caught and released countless cat
this hot and humid july afternoon
summer sun finally muted by the treeline
a subtle reminder that despite the heat
relief will eventually come my way
as I retrace ten thousand steps back home

july two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

breaking bread on a sunday evening

don’t lose faith she said
[one of her favorite things to say]
your time will come
just you wait and see

to be honest I wasn’t
looking for any time
but I must confess
a little space would do
perhaps a cottage
on the edge of town
or houseboat on the cedar

they’ll be no fishing tomorrow
she reminded me
[and I assented silently]
what with the moon hiding
and the river rising

and so for another night
supper will be limited
a slice of bread lightly toasted
and a glass or two
of monastery wine

march two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

an act of exposition

it was a matter of time that your life
became mainly a flashback
like a character in a dickens novel
stretched thin on a cold march day

it was a matter of time recollecting
faded images of a former self
one plodding alongside trout stream
aided by spear tipped hiking stick

it was a matter time accepting
the thought of looking back
plunging the blade through the ice
shattering what was once indestructible
and exposing a brand new world

february two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

a day on fictitious lake

she’s pleaded to tag along
and the boys reluctantly agreed
the five of us stuffed inside
my lime green hatchback

fictitious lake was frozen solid
a good eight plus inches thick
perfectly capable of supporting
whatever weight we might carry

checklist included four-man tent
rods and reels and ice auger
life vests and assortment of jigs
5-gallon bucket and case of beer

there must be a rainbow somewhere
she said as the boys drilled into the ice
multi-color parasol above her head
designer aviators shielding her eyes

january two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

sharing the wealth we possess

we fished off the docks
overcast sunday morning
praying for a break

weatherman says
tomorrow should be better
once churchgoers
and earthworms are all
back at work

most of us don’t
give a damn
about day jobs or night life
let alone the cost of
living or dying

river keeps calling
finding ourselves responding
come rain or come shine

november two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserve

ones that got away

there was fish in the basement freezer
bluegills caught in the mississippi
taken home and cleaned
filleted and carefully placed in ziplocs
each dated by way of sharpie

each day a story unto itself
each story a small piece of the life
and times of a solitary man
long removed from
an ordinary working life

if you don’t move you will die
he told his son
carefully stepping down the stairs
unlocking freezer door with key
he kept hanging on a nail
fearful the fish might one day escape
and find their way back home

september two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

bay fishing

we sat on the dock
feet dangling and bobbers
bobbing atop quiet wakes
ushered in by a dying sun
succumbing to giant moon

we spoke occasionally
about deficits and taxes and
royal weddings
steering clear of world wars
and foreign matters

for the most part though
we kept the conversation
to a minimum
drinking the king’s ale
waiting for mackerel to strike

may two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

twelve pound test line

sitting on narrow part of bridge
we fish from the bottom
at three-thirty in the morning
having closed the bars
we now chat side by side
unexpectedly witnessing
waxing moon blooming

while most people dream
we resume this conversation
started decades ago
at last coming to a head
suddenly realizing
past years made no sense
and most likely never will

may two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all right reserved

Fishing trip

We’re supposed to be on the road by now
but Ted can’t seem to find the car keys
and DeSalvo’s rolling joints in the next room
sitting Indian style in the loveseat

I’m busy stuffing my backpack with
chocolate bars and graham crackers
and marshmallows and assortment
of individual servings of breakfast cereals
and Frito Lay snacks

Ted is arguing with his folks who
never seem to grow old
his mother with a dirty dishrag in her hand
his father smoking Marlboro Reds
and lambasting his son for chores undone

I’m in the garage now
stocking the cooler with Bud heavy
and whole milk and boxes of Sunny D
carton of 18 raw eggs and Oscar Mayer bacon

Let’s go let’s go I yell but nobody hears me
DeSalvo’s now out of my sight
most likely licking the edge of the rolling paper
eyes smiling and marveling
at his own imperfections

Hey Ted where the hell’s the ice I yell
but I don’t think he heard me
but I do think I heard his dad slap him
upside his head

Finally he comes out all red faced
DeSalvo right behind him smiling
checking his pants for a Bic lighter

Everything okay I ask
Yeah Ted says let’s get the fuck out of here
we’re taking the Lincoln Continental

march two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

catch and release

the weather turned midday
as a warmish sun gave way
to coldish clouds and variable winds

nearly knee deep in blackish
rainbow trout suddenly start
striking at mini-jigs

hand and eye react instinctively
despite scattered thoughts
racing past
slippery rocks in river bed

patience is like an acquired taste
(you tell yourself)
best served in solitary confines

the cool waters gradually
drop in temperature
yet you continue to wade
further away
dead set on an eddying pool
silently calling your name

november two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

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