Poem: A Fisherman

Hi, if you are looking for a more general poem about a fisherman that you can use for someone you know (the poem below is about a specific person and is a little negative in some parts),  try one I’ve posted on this page: longzijun.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/ifaq-infrequently-asked-questions/

A Fisherman

My grandfather was a fisherman
No, not in the Christian sense—a fisher of men
But a man with a rod and a reel, a line, bait on the hook
A fisherman

I hate fishing.
The waiting
The worms
Did you know that a worm has five hearts?
And then there’s the cleaning.
I’d stay in the bedroom—
and try not to hear
the scrick scrick of scaling
the flubbup of guts on the table
How could one not love fishing?

He was a fisherman.
And a word alchemist
Instead of transmuting lead into gold
He changed fiberglass
To fabricgas

It sounded like a mistake,
But we could never be sure

He told us of
His phonographic memory
Had he mispronounced a word
Or could he really remember every thing that he’d heard?

He spoke of radical tires.
At first, we thought ‘radial’
But wouldn’t radical tires better suit
A man with a certificate
In offensive driving
And that we knew to be accurate.

“Jeez, did’ja see that ol’ geezer stopped in the middle of the intersection readin’ a map.”

He wasn’t a driver.
He was a fisherman. He was a word alchemist. He was a builder
Cottage, boat, dock, deck
If it was made of wood, he could build it
He knew how to handle a hammer and a nail
A saw and a carving knife
a hook and a scaling knife
He knew the skills of sharp things
Hard things
Sharp words
To sever relationships,
Cut away the deadwood of family and friends
Hard words
To hammer down trust to a thin sheet of tolerance

I saw him last year.
My mother drove us up to the nursing home.
She warned us . . . he has this story. If he starts off on it just pretend you’re listening. Don’t bother to interrupt, because he’ll just keep on going until he gets to the part about the doctor laughing. It always starts the same way . . . I never worked in the factory.

Ten minutes later
He starts:
I never worked for the factory you know. Not in the factory. Not for Dupont. They just put that down to keep the books right and proper. Keep the pencil neckers in line. I was a guide—a fishing guide. I knew all the best times and all the best spots so when business fellas come up from the city, I’d take ’em out. They’d catch their fish, and they’d be happy as clamps. That’s what they paid me for. I was a fisherman. Now this one day, I take these three fellas from Tronna out on the lake. First thing happens is that one of these fellas is casting, and you can tell he doesn’t know a rod from Adam, and what does he do but cast his hook right into the top of my head. He tugs on it a few times and I holler at ‘im to stop tugging. So he stops. But the hook is stuck in my head see. Right here. You can still see the scar. I pull it out and the other fellas turn all white… guess no one bleeds in Tronna. So one fella says “we better get you to the hospital” but I say no, I’ll be just fine. I hold a rag to my head and stop the bleedin. It hurts like bejeezus, but I have a flask of whiskey and I take a sup from time to time. We were out on the lake all morning. The fellas caught their fish and went back to Tronna. So when I get to the doctor he tries me on once for size and says: ‘looks like I’m gonna have to stitch that up. Better give you something for the pain’. And I just take another sup of whiskey and says, doc, you go right ahead and do whatever you gotta do. I ain’t feeling much of anything right now. And he laughs and he says to me ‘that so, well I wouldn’t mind a little of what you’re havin.’

Laughter-snort of vitality-dissolves to a sob
Fades, transforms
And then he finds what he’s been looking for.
He starts again…
I never worked in the factory you know. Not in the factory.
He’s found it again.
Hook-gouged head
Whiskey anesthesia

His phonographic memory is skipping

He died a few days later
His life distilled to single morning
A fishing trip becomes a career
A life

But in the end, he was
A fisherman.

I won’t begrudge him this
After all, how many of us
Can read the clouds and the currents
Can understand the shallows and the depths
Can find the perfect spot?


This is a poem about my step-grandfather. I didn’t know him as a young man (and only barely knew him as an old man), so it is not an accurate picture of him, just an impression of him late in his life.

~by longzijun


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