Night Fishing - Poem by Gibbons Ruark
We have come again, my father and I,
To the edge of the known land, to the streak
Of sand that lips the undermining sea.
But we are not allowed this time to speak
Of horizons, for the sun has dropped
Behind us, and night is all of a piece.
The lights go out in the cottages propped
Above the black dunes, room by room the lights
Go out, the children fall asleep, and soon
Whole families sleep as calm as children,
Nursed by the motions of the wind and tide.
My fishing rod springs and quivers and the line
Loops over the breakers; I watch the sinker
Splash and start to reel in steadily, steadily,
Feeling the current drag. Downshore, my father
Tosses with a pitcher's ease, then braces
His legs against the undertow and waits.
His cigarette stings a hole in the dark.
The odor of fish grows stronger as the wind
Switches and the sea crawls to us with its sharks.
My father stands like a driven piling.
I move downshore. Somewhere not far inland,
Where the afternoon's shrimpboats are nuzzling
In their sleep, his hometown leans into the river.
Below us, empty of fishers, the old pier
Sways over climbing waters, the salt wash
Rinses the pilings scabbed with barnacles.
The timbers shudder in the tidal rush.
The water lifts, but we do not move back
Until the seaweed swirls about our thighs
And empty bait trays tumble in the slack.
We reel and pull and reel and pull again.
Somewhere in that darkened row of houses
Our women sleep in their beautiful order,
But here on the swift-dissolving shore
I drift to my father in the night's one water.
Yearly we come to this familiar coast
To wade beside each other in the shallows,
Reaching for bluefish in the ocean's darkness
Till our lines are tangled and our tackle lost.
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