Dad put his pole down
in the bottom of the skiff,
its sun-bleached hull
pickled over years, soaked
by gasoline, salt water,
its color now, faded and dull,
the gunnels worn smooth
by old oars and fishermen’s hands
as they pulled their catch
over the sides of the craft.
A breeze woke a bouquet
of dead bait, sardines and clams
as he reached into the cooler,
found what he wanted, and
opened two ice cold beers.
Okay? Want one? he asked,
tugging at the brim of his favorite hat,
sun-bleached as the planks,
squinting at me in the sun,
me holding my Surf City rod
as though a striper’s strike
would take it out of my hands.
Aren’t you thirsty? I am.
He drank almost half, said, Damn,
that’s what I love about fishin’.
His wink, familiar as a smile,
made me reach for the bottle,
ice cold and sweating like
a man shoveling coal into fire.
The first taste is always best,
better than the rest that go down
too easily when I sweat, not perspire,
and the afternoon sun had me
half-baked and thirsty as Hell.
Way off in the distance, the sound
of the buoy bell kept me silent,
its double clang caused
by passing waves that lifted, then
set it down to wait for the next one,
a bell that could be heard in town
where we filled the gas cans
before buying bait. I wait for the
circling gulls to land, then hand
the empty back to Dad. Perfect,
I say, so glad for the day and the
chance to fish with him again,
never sure how many more times
we’d board this tired ol’ boat,
fish in the sun and float for hours
until a setting sun called us
back to shore.