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Poetry and Medicine
May 24/31, 2006

Memorial Day

Author Affiliations
 

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to jamapoems@jama-archives.org.

JAMA. 2006;295(20):2334. doi:10.1001/jama.295.20.2334

Fishing with my sons in the oxbows of the Lamprey River
Is a way of revisiting their grandfather
Closer than the Bitterroot, where we scattered his ashes.
Gabriel, himself tossed back by the Angel of Death
Just a week ago, is no longer grateful
Simply to be able to swallow.
He wants the mosquitoes to stop biting
And the trout to start. Jacob catches
One freshwater mussel and two trees,
A white pine and a hemlock. He claims
Both are too small to keep.
Uncle Cookie lands a ten-incher and
Extracts the hook as carefully as the endoscopist
Backed the Mylar Star of David out of
Gabriel's distal esophagus last Sunday night.
Cookie holds the stunned fish upright in the water
Until it can flash from his hand like a knife. Catch and
Release is the story of my life, of all our lives:
But a Titleist winks up at me from the moss-black
Granite of the river bottom, ten miles
Upstream from the nearest country club,
Like a jokey message from the old man
Who taught six grandsons how to fish
And how to judge a lie. He claims
He's all right after all. It wasn't hell he smelled
As he was dying, it was my lost brother Michael,
On the other side, firing up the grill for trout.

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