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Fishing at Night & Water Tank Cosmology

Fishing at Night

As if what waited in the dark were different than what travelled through it: a chalk moon rose and filled the fossil beds with light. Print of a crinoid, print of a shell. Here at the slate bar’s end, where water swirls and eddies, I worked the bait into the dark, bent my concentration to its snags and cur- rent, the line going taut then slack. It wasn’t so much the river as it clucked and settled over eggs of chert, but how it hatched itself years deeper in its groove, how it whispered obsolescence with each cleaned hook, my own veins pressed like fish scales in a sunless, uncracked rock or book.

Water Tank Cosmology

The leaves that sank to its bottom were not magnified by the trembling of the liquid, nor its stillness, nor its bevel at the corrugated rim. A season decanted where a bullfrog drummed his throat to the black gnats strafing the watery lens ­ but how, across that long drought summer when we sold the herd, through fields of parched, uneaten pasture, did he hear its oval note of rain and aluminum? I would have turned the valve that night and let the water flow, a rippling plane, into the grass, but I just stood there, frozen like the frog in the beam of my flashlight, while the deep grass roar of summer pulsed around us, and a meteor swam, I swear, like a tadpole though the glistening dark.

Assistant professor of creative writing Davis McCombs was a Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford University from 1996 to 1998. His poem “The River and Under the River” was featured in “Best American Poetry 1996.” His book “Ultima Thule” was the 1999 winner of the Yale Younger Poets competition.

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