Another poem begun in Julia Kasdorf’s workshop at Laity Lodge. She gave us a fragment of a Psalm and asked us to write a poem from it. Mine was, “He catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.” 

Estes Park, Colorado


Dad plans all day for what will be a one-hour trip.

Tieing flies.

Gathering vest, hat, waders, net.

Packing snacks and water.

We drive all our gear across the street to fish

this Wild and Scenic River.

“Where’s your pole?” he asks me.

I grin and hold up a bamboo pole

(5 bucks at the gas station).

He frowns. “I’ll go help your mother.”

Mom loves fly fishing.

It is the only time she is quiet.

Dad arranges everything just so, the way she likes it.

The air is cool, but not the midday sun.

Mosquitoes are everywhere.

Me and my cheap pole can’t fish worth a damn.

I stand in the freezing river and laugh.

Mom watches the water. Dad watches Mom.

She casts her line by feel.

With the tumor deep in her eye, the world looks sepia.

Still she is the first to spy

the Colorado greenback cutthroat trout

darting through the ripples, over the stones

right to Dad. He sets the hook. Keeps the tension.

Uses the net the way God intended.

“Hurry! Get the camera!” Dad yells.

I drop my feeble pole and run to the bank,

paw through the assortment of Orvis bags, but

there’s no camera. Our phones are in the car.

Mom quotes Psalm 10:9 as if her well-marked Bible

were sitting right in front of her:

“He catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.”

“Not today,” Dad says, and returns the trout to its habitat.

He will load up his flies again,

but she will not.

The Good Lord will scoop her up soon

after that tumor connects with all the others,

forming a net.

A couple of years later, Dad will come back to this state.

He will catch a helpless trout, drag it over to the bank

so someone else can take a picture.

And he will let it go.