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Simply to Know Its Name


Into the storm-dark Sacramento I waded
again and again that winter,
casting spoons on fine line with a willowy rod,
threading the lures deep among the bottom’s stones
around sunken snags
seeking steelhead
till the water iced my wadered legs to stone
and drove me back up the bank, shivering.
Hour upon hour, day upon day, I fished
and no fish

but when it came
it was a locomotive runaway
on a downgrade, black and fast and roaring steam,
stripping off line against the drag in a high clear singing.
The fish was on perhaps five headlong seconds, rose up
and spat the spoon back, a luminous orange bullet
coming straight at my nose.
The pulsing in my chest, the sharp
coppery taste in my mouth, lifted
the bone chill of untallied days working
the spoon to the bottom,
among the rocks and roots

which is the whole story: You
are heading way out and deep down, a bright bit
tipping the thinnest tether
when something big hits
and you feel blessed
to know its name.