Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Here is a big guy I caught on an Oregon coastal river.  When I was a kid fishing in the same spot, a giant one, maybe 60 or 70 pounds, knocked me on my butt as I guided him to shore, then charged with his hooked toothy jaw, swerving at the last instant as his submarine airborne olive-speckled back sank into green invisibility.  The line broke and neurons fired.  I was living.

Last year, Toyon, at Humboldt State University, published a poem about another big salmon I lost:

Cliff Salmon

The monster Chinook bit my lure, my foot slipped,
and I crashed 14 feet into the water with a sore butt cushioned by stones.
Stuart jabbed me with a net to save my life but I told him to get the fish.

In that moment I was a water version of Sam McGee standing heart-deep,
bloody arms and legs, happily watching the olive-spotted slab
of ocean-bright silver run and roll and head shake and leap.

Five freight train runs and still strong enough to make the reel sing.
Five freight train runs and still strong enough to break the surface
of that other world.

Our adrenaline surged around boulders into slack water,
him eyeing the crazy fisherman who wouldn’t let go,
me eyeing his ancient prize of 10,000 years of wild red flesh,

brought together by hard rain down the mountain,
he, eventually tearing free of the hook, and I, outside the flames of time
for only as long as we fought.

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