ICE FISHING

The pike and largemouth bass lurk under the thickened, layered, patina-green ice—dark shadow-silhouettes until, we hope, they will latch onto our metallic lures, and show us their dead-pan eyes, their odd, flat faces—that look of shock and hunger for the cold sea.

Sunlight has finally returned as we knew it would this late January of surprise. A card table of poker played out on TV. White men deemed worthy to hold all the high cards. But we are here now—under the expanse of cerulean, ever-stretching, sky–that is finally clear.

We fumble with our gone-white-knuckled hands in shallow pockets, awkward again in this world between us that we create. Cumulative. Have shed our gloves to thread the bait.

Yes, we fumble—with keys that no longer open things we no longer can afford, but we hang onto them with the grocery list and our dog-eared, ripped pages of enumerated excuses. If only. This. And that.

The ice crackles and echoes. And catches us—back beneath the sky and entering clouds on this stage of sky and ice that speak of the thaw, the changes of its layers of time. The crackling echoes still, and we look for it as if we can see sound.

The pike are still there under the ice, lurking, hungry for what we might have.

The neck cracks a series of small, barely-audible strange pops and cracks and hurts. Too much time with the neck strained on a screen of type and evanescent syllables of song that start and stop. Sputter like us.

The neck cracks to dip back and take in not just the sky but the winter desolation. A city of charcoal-imbued trees with empty arms thinned by the vines of summer that trapped them. That no one came out here to cut.

Tomorrow looms elusive. The hour stretches and we fumble, yes awkward, to fill it. We stretch and lose foothold. But will not speak of such things, put a damper on the fire that burns at the shelter behind us that we have jerry-rigged with discarded wooden boards and brush from the last storm, now frozen.

The birch and oak we have brought from the bed of the truck burn—send smoke upward like Japanese prayer planks—and heat that I have been assured, shall not melt the ice beneath us. The world of algae and plankton and pike.

Did the oysters, we wonder, that we took from the ocean days ago, know that they lived in the refrigerator the entire weekend before they will be released tomorrow back on the island, after their transport in the cooler on the slow ferry, back to the seacoast—because we did not have the time to open them?

I am tired. Fatigued. Fatigued of fatigue. Of the wrist and fingers and neck and back and knee ache–even in the warmth of the House. But it does nothing to complain.

Tonight we shall return to our corners of the House and regroup after the things said to each other about self-centeredness, rings and houses that will or will not be given, keys that will or will not be copied and dispersed, hidden under the cinder block, books that will be written but never read. Manuscripts tossed in the fire. And we will think of the flat, copper eyes of the pike we could not catch, take from that other world under the ice, foreign, yet a part of us that we hunger for—to frolic in its waves, indigo pages of a cloudy sea, during a rainstorm during high tide next summer.

Nostalgic for the beginning: our lost, happy childhoods with our fathers who made us laugh or gave comfort as we sat tucked into his knees on the couch. Our strong fathers who have left us. Nostalgic for the beginning of the island we share. Questions looming that we are no longer brave enough to ask. No longer brave enough to brace and  listen to the answers. Strangers often closer because of words in type thrown back and forth in a free-flowing volley in real time. Higher, theoretical, emotional math.

Yes, we will return to our corners to awkwardly assemble our individual rows of ducks for the work day. Thinking of the pike under the ice we did not catch. Their eyes blown open by the cold. The looming, expansive skies now filled, once again, with faraway stars, pin pricks of light that some say the bone of the body and dust of the soul return to. Isn’t it pretty to think so, as Hemingway said in another context.

It is comforting to know. That three thousand ivory birds alight the temple in an ancient Persian text. That poems will be written. Dust will be swept.

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