Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2014  Vol. 13  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Cast Net

I learned to bait my own hook young,
to force the bright tip through the minnow’s eye.
From the shore at night I watched my grandmother
gig for flounders, shrinking as she waded out
with a nail-tipped broom handle and flashlight.
Ripples spread as she stabbed at muddy shadows.

And in daylight I saw my uncles filet our catch,
knives splitting the silver bellies open
as gulls hovered close, screaming for scraps,
and I loved to crack open a crab’s chest,
dig for the feathery meat, lick the fat,
yellow and salty, from my fingertips,

but I was always shy around the cast net.
My father would gather the mesh into a dress,
a skinny girl draped over his arm,
clutch the neck and coil the line in his fist,
snatch a lead weight between his teeth.
The quick turn, the release: yards flew from him,

the net spread, then slapped the surface, sank.
I wondered how it tasted, the Gulf on his tongue.
The intimacy of the thing, the careful dance:
embarrassed I’d caught him locked in this embrace,
I kept my distance—though what he hauled up,
glistening and thrashing on the shore, I certainly ate.  end  

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