Off she’d go at first light,

hooks, rod, dough bait wrapped in waxed paper,

walking five miles to the murky pond,

casting, sitting still for hours

for what sucked and burrowed

along the bottom, those thick-bodied fish

with hard-ringed mouths,

scales big as nickels,

sides red-slashed, bubbles rising

in their wake, smell of swamp gas,

and then suddenly the bobber moving,

pulled under, my mother feeding out line,

then striking up and back,

a big fish that she carried back to us,

reading our fortunes

in its blood and syrups and coils,

telling us we would marry,

live in small houses

with children, cats and dogs,

that we would have troubles all our own,

each of us touching the fish before it was wrapped

in tin foil and baked all afternoon,

that fish with many bones,

that she said grace over, that tasted of mud.  

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