Men in the Susquehanna
Below the overpass, a dozen men
are staggered like a mean bowling split
across the shining flats. How can these men
be here on a Wednesday morning, fishing for trout?
Perhaps they’ve taken the day off from work.
Perhaps they don’t have work. They gritted their teeth
all winter long, but now they take up hope
of plenty, fresh fillets on the grill or fried
in popping bacon grease, a freezer full
enough to last ’til spring turkey season.
Better to think of it as a holiday,
the men luxurious in new waders,
expensive flies and reels. They must hold rods;
driving past, I only see their trunks
dark and surely cold in April water
that gleams like foil, these men who stand so still,
waiting, terrified, to feel the catch
of some great, unbearable hook.
The kitten curled at the sunny windowsill,
fox in the back row, deer beside the door—
my fuzzy students are all accounted for
in knitted caps, masks of eye, nostril,
and whisker, pink in tuft and smile. They will
not let themselves slip into fierceness, to roar.
A woman’s life is terrifying: therefore
these girls come dressed as owls, pandas, gerbils.
It’s safer to be a toy, a stuffed doll
arranged like those on their narrow dorm beds.
They clip fluffy tails to backpacks, peer
at their shoes, their smeary notes. They try to recall
that cozy den. If only this teacher, this blockhead,
would cease her droning into their furry ears.