Monday, July 03, 2006

Kenai River in July

Side by side we stand, my brother and I,
waist-deep in our Gore-Tex chest waders;

Rushing waters stacked fin-to-fin with hordes of teeming salmon,
shoreline stacked elbow-to-elbow with well-equipped, excited fishermen,

Casting brightly-colored fly upon fly upon fly
to the slow-moving mass of flesh making its way upriver.

Homeward they migrate, unwavering in their determination,
past the open mouths of bears, the sharp talons of swooping eagles,
and the millions of hopeful hooks,

Oblivious to our presence and to the egg-eating rainbow trout
that follow patiently behind them on their pre-programmed pilgrimage.

A sudden flash of silver and my rod doubles;
“Fish on!” I shout, and the sea of fishermen parts to give way to the battle.

Beneath the surface, if fish could talk,
mine would be yelling “Human on!”
as his finned friends gathered ‘round to watch.

Humored by my efforts yet worried nonetheless,
he makes a valiant run, ripping the backing off my reel;
first a bee-line to deeper waters, then a powerful thrust
followed by aerial acrobatics and violent shaking.

Still unable to dislodge the fly from his mouth,
he realizes that this is no game, that his adversary is serious;
launched by a powerful tail,
he rockets skyward once again,
glaring defiantly as if to say “bring it on.”

Engaged in a battle of wits and brute strength,
this handsome sockeye and I fight it out.

No wonder they call it “combat fishing,” I think to myself,
perverting the meaning of the phrase.

“Amateur!” is all the fish can think to say,
with mocking distain for my lack of prowess at this new game,

As if my knuckles, bleeding from the fast-spinning reel handle
and my excited cries of “Holy %&@$#, get the net!” didn’t give me away.

But the experienced fly-fishermen who surround me are gracious,
and perhaps even a bit jealous -
as I finally land the shimmering, silvery eleven-pound sockeye.

If not for brother, older-wiser,
master of the art of fly-fishing and expert timer of the salmon runs,
we would not be here -
snow-capped mountains
reflecting on the waters of the vast Kenai,

Catching one magnificent, muscular salmon
and hard-fighting pink luminescent rainbow after another,
and already planning our next Alaska adventure.

-Paul Heldenbrand


Anonymous said...

This is a giant "fish-of-a-poem," and it reminds me vividly of my own trips down the Kenai fighting 80# Kings for 2-3 hours. Indeed, "Combat-fishing" is an appropriate term.
Your poem is a terrific narrative poem with great imgaes and strong word choices. Keep writing.

Frank Vehafric said...

Yes, summer is the time for fishing poems. Let's see some more.

Paul Heldenbrand said...

Thank you very much, gentlemen. You are too kind. This is the only poem I've ever written (if it even qualifies as a poem), and I'm sure it shows. Please let me know if anyone has any thoughts for improving it! (I've also never joined a blog before.)

Frank Vehafric said...

It certainly qualifiesas a poem. I think that rather than critique it I'd suggest that you read it aloud to yourself a few times. (I know, I feel wierd doing this too, sometimes) If you find that your tongue tends to slip at a certain place, or that you can't breathe easily and naturally while reading, those might be places to try some changes to the flow a bit.

If you make a few changes, send the new version along and we'll put it up.

Paul Heldenbrand said...

Many thanks, Frank. I'll try that.