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Crabs and fish

I can feel the summer waning--fall classes start on Thursday. So, a poem for summer. I'm posting this because I miss poetry and don't know how to get back into that world, and this is the best I can do-post old poems on my blog.

Crabs and fish

We caught crabs the way the Indians who first called
the river Rappahannock must have—two boys, a piece of meat on a string,
one long-handled net. You had to be careful
of your shadow. Crabs could see you coming.

When we snared one, we danced; blue shelled crab
trapped on the pier under the net, scuttling sideways,
in circles, jagged pincers snapping at our toes.
You had to grab hard from behind. You couldn’t let go.

When I was seven, and James five, Gramps took
us to the middle of the river to teach us to fish.
Handling the blind and slippery worms, he showed us
how to stitch the hook through one end and then the other.

Sunday mornings at the river were the only times
we didn’t go to church. It wasn’t even mentioned.
During summer, the boat’s metal bottom burned our bare feet.
If the fish weren’t biting, Gramps would spend hours

sitting with one foot hanging over the side, leaning
forward, right hand pulling the line, trying to explain
how to tell, with your lead sinker, oyster bottom from mud.
I didn’t really know. Sometimes I just pretended.

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