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A half-assed cast and my four-dollar crankbait
hangs from a stump like a Christmas ornament.
I tighten the line and snap my wrist,
turn my head too late and feel piercing steel.
My right eye explodes with something worse than pain.
The world sliced in half, I fall to my knees.
Hands slide in slime and blood of dying fish.
The bass boat rocks under me
like the whole world has given way.

And maybe it has. Each time I blink
my guts heave. I grope for the Jim Beam
in the tackle box, pour some on my eye,
most in my mouth, half a fifth,
never wanting a drink so bad.
I pound my fist against the gunwale
till something breaks inside my hand.

And finally feel whiskey spread like grace
through my body, the pain almost pain again,
trace the line to the swiveled lure,
one prong buried barb-deep.
But even whiskey cannot quiet me
when I tear the hook from my eye.
My scream echoes over the water.
Only silence answers. Nothing out here
cares what a man feels.

Blood and tears cover my face.
My hair sweeps back like an evangelist’s,
as I cross the heart of the lake
toward Swaney’s Landing where I will testify
to those sunburned old drunks
of careless moments that scar us forever.  

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