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                 for my father

I think by now the river must be thick
             with salmon. Late August, I imagine it

as it was that morning: drizzle needling
            the surface, mist at the banks like a net

settling around us-everything damp
            and shining. That morning, awkward

and heavy in our hip waders, we stalked
            into the current and found our places-

you upstream a few yards, and out
            far deeper. You must remember how

the river seeped in over your boots,
            and you grew heavy with that defeat.

All day I kept turning to watch you, how
            first you mimed our guide's casting,

then cast your invisible line, slicing the sky
            between us; and later, rod in hand, how

you tried-again and again-to find
            that perfect arc, flight of an insect

skimming the river's surface. Perhaps
            you recall I cast my line and reeled in

two small trout we could not keep.
            Because I had to release them, I confess,

I thought about the past-working
            the hooks loose, the fish writhing

in my hands, each one slipping away
            before I could let go. I can tell you now

that I tried to take it all in, record it
            for an elegy I'd write-one day-

when the time came. Your daughter,
            I was that ruthless. What does it matter

if I tell you I learned to be? You kept casting
            your line, and when it did not come back

empty, it was tangled with mine. Some nights,
            dreaming, I step again into the small boat

that carried us out and watch the bank receding-
            my back to where I know we are headed.

Written by Natasha Trethewey


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