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Noodling Flatheads

This poem appeared in the June, 1996 issue of M.E.N. Magazine

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to noodle: to catch
fish bare-handed

Master of every logjam and riverbend, he took
the Deep Forkís biggest 52 pounds
of flathead catfish.
Starting small, he caught an eight-pounder at seven,
his fist, jammed down its throat,
grabbing gillplates sharp as razors as it clamped its
jaws around his wrist. He wrestled it
waist-deep in mud and water,
went head under often enough to nearly do him in.
Flung it finally on the bank. clubbed it with his heel,
and lay gasping beside it. as the gillplates
fluttered their last spasms.

He ate it.
Built a fire in his secret
bush clearing, hung the bones
in a tree for crows to peck at, lied
to his mother, who wept
at the sliced fingers, thin bruised wrist.

Now, at thirty, he leaves off gloves to feel the difference
in muddy water, between snake and beaver,
fiathead and snapping turtle,
letting the beavers be, vicious-toothed furies
that take a manís arm easy as a sapling.
He takes more in an hour with his hands
than any rod and reel in a day, taking the meanest
cottonmouth snake, snapping turtle
pushing past fear. past reason.
of the Deep Forkís
darkest pools.

Joanne Barrie Lynn

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