The tackle box opens to three flights of stairs:
rusted Daredevils, half-naked Hula Poppers,
one-eyed Jitterbugs, cracked orange floats.
It’s heavy, heavy laden with sinkers
and the vintage lures, wood-carved
with barbed treble hooks, bodies
flaking lead paint — crazy bait
shaped creatures from deep ocean trenches,
the bio-illuminati of dark alien depths
cast out to lure and snag men by the lips.
Today, they’re worth something on eBay.
* * *
Rattling across the cattle guard, the rust-belt Vega,
hatchback, dark maroon, slows down
waiting for the dust to catch up.
Terry had rigged the pulley in dad’s garage,
swapped out the engine. Yanked it himself.
Dropped in a rebuilt. I wasn’t there to help.
But now, at least, we can go for the black-eyed grasshoppers
slapping wings like baseball cards on bicycle spokes,
squirting tobacco on our hands. We hook the thorax,
cast them into the pond.
Bluegill and small bass snap splash
in brown water. We smoke joints, breathe hay
manure in the afternoon sun.
* * *
By midnight, slicing thin light through dark water,
smelt in thousands, flash upstream
past lantern shadows lining the banks
crammed with waders drinking Jack,
shouldering cases of beer. Thigh deep
in the river scooping nets against the current,
we haul our catch to the bank, sloshing
fish into plastic pails.
it’s an old Chippewa custom
he tells me, deadpan —
you need to bite the head off a live one
on your first dip, it’s good luck.
I believe him, he’s my little brother.
fuck you all I spit it out
everyone laughing beer through their noses. At dawn, we clean them
standing by sinks, our boots squeak on kitchen linoleum,
two burners working on the stove, more Jack,
sputtering oil, headless smelt, dipped in beer and cornmeal
batter at sunrise. Damn me. I don’t remember the rest.
* * *
Dad and I show up early, get the key from the landlord,
a ruddy old-timer, a northerner’s silence, looks long
at dad, dismisses me. The place is strewn —
socks, hooded sweatshirts, a letter jacket,
and that junky old tackle box he’d gotten from grandpa.
In other rooms, casting rods, snarled old spinning reels
(he’s taken his best gear) his old pair of waders,
(he’d been wearing the new ones) an oily manual
thrown on a tying bench: Vega Hatchback ’72
In his top dresser drawer, I find a watch, a penknife,
pennies and dimes, more socks, a stack of porn,
a meerschaum pipe and a dime bag hidden
in a carved wooden box. I secret them
into my jacket pocket. Dad’s looking in a closet.
He’d been the one to speak with the police
divers, and the officer who spotted the car
by the river, found all those empties.
I hid the weed in the tackle box under the weights:
Can I keep this old thing?
Sure, you go ahead and keep it.