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On Munsungun

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My father in the aluminum stern, cursing
another fouled blood-knot: all the shits

and fucks as integral to the art of fishing
as the bait-fish, little silver smelts

I sewed like a manual transmission,
the same inbred order and precision

needling the leader through the ass,
out the mouth, through the jaw, out the nostril

and back down—suffering as my father suffered
the bastard no-see-ums and the guttering Johnson

the obligatory dud, orange egg-pearls
ballooning from its bust underside, hundreds of duds

like every shit-luck setback that drove us on,
fed by the huge image of everything

we'd never caught, moving in joint blindness
under Munsungun.
And whatever it was
it was the fight that delivered us—a tension

like a sequestered muscle, the line
spooling, unspooling, the holy-shit-

litany pulled from our awed mouths
contracting with distance until a whole

silence surfaced, the viscid, slapping body
absorbing and reflecting raw light

like the bit of cornea above a pupil.
And then his tremendous, decent hands

brandishing an oar-butt; the brilliant lace
of the gills, their crumpled hinge flaring

in bilge water; and the line, whipping
and shuttling, feeding invisibly back,

moving on on Munsungun, sons
survived by the same damn hunt they heired.

Source: Poetry

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This poem originally appeared in the May 2005 issue of Poetry magazine

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On Munsungun

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