Vietnam

By Michael Collier b. 1953 Michael Collier
The shape of it bending like an eel
or disfigured quarter moon, pink and green   
and brown, like a rainbow trout. The wall

along my bed covered with the map I cut   
from the newspaper, and next to it the fishing   
calendar from Abonauder’s Texaco. The square

cages of days with their numerals and effigies   
of moon and fish shaded to indicate the shape   
of the moon, the hunger of the fish.

The white bread stripped of its crust, dampened,   
then dusted with flour, compressed into a tight ball,   
wrapped in foil and chilled all night.

A piece of it pressed and shaped on the tip
of an Eagle Claw hook, then lowered into the nesting holes   
of blue gill. The plastic bobber floating

on the surface like a silent doorbell. A whole world
of cause and effect, framed day-by-day and week-by-week.   
The passage of time as a kind of game in which

I transferred numbers from the newspaper
to the calendar. The body counts and their categories   
of NVRA, Marines, Montagnards.

And each morning I put a bold X through the previous
day not to erase or forget it but to connect
the corners, make four triangles of the square.

And it was rare if not impossible to catch   
the blue gill that swam and swam around   
the tidy pebble craters of their nests,

or coax them out except in hostile swerves   
and feints toward the bait that hung   
like a balloon of gravity over their homes,

a suspicious egg pouch or cocoon, something   
a storm might have dislodged from the bank   
and blown like a feared gift into the water,

a thing swallowed whole then run with
until the line played out and the hook set fast.

Michael Collier, “Vietnam” from The Neighbor (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by Michael Collier. Used by permission of the author.

Source: The Neighbor (1995)

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Poet Michael Collier b. 1953

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects War & Conflict, Living, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Social Commentaries, Youth, Activities

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Michael  Collier

Biography

Michael Collier was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1953. He studied with William Meredith as an undergraduate at Connecticut College, and earned his MFA at the University of Arizona. Poet laureate of Maryland from 2001-2004, Collier is also the director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Maryland. His books of poetry include The Clasp and Other Poems (1986), The . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT War & Conflict, Living, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Social Commentaries, Youth, Activities

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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