Running the Trot Line

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pomespennyeach
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Wed Sep 15, 2021 2:05 pm

ver. 2

Gasoline and brackish water sloshes in the bottom of the battered aluminum boat lodged in the sands. Metal grinds against rock and pebbles as I push out the prow and jump into its awkward angle. At night, the lake is more a sound than a visible place, the growling outboard cancels out the lapping of waves. I shine a flashlight on the bank for navigation, illuminating the rocky shores and the sudden voids of the sloughs until we come to the one our trot line line is stretched across.

We find the bleach jug that marks the beginning of our line, it’s my job to grab it, then point the light as my father lifts the line out of the dark waters, dripping with slime from the lake bottom. At first he holds it like a telegraph wire as the boat drifts in a dark orbit, feeling for the deep tug that would signal a catch. Then the slow hand over hand revelation of the treble hooks nibbled clean and bright. For each, another blood red ball of stink bait is molded on and gently lowered back into the green depths as I follow the work of his hands with the light. A few more empty hooks and then a struggling catfish appears, to be taken into a net.

The sound of the hook being torn out of its mouth makes me wince, but I have to aim the light and be a witness. The catch is tossed the floor of the boat where it gasps and flops about in the shadows. At the end of the line, my father gently lets go and I fill a bucket and my father carefully grasps the fish around the neck like a snake. Catfish fins are poison needles. I bless the moment when the fish is returned to its element.

The outboard sputters back to its belching life to carry us away from the night to where our cinder block cabin sleeps. Tomorrow, before dawn, we will repeat our trip, then the day will be mine, to explore the crumbling cliffs, mountain laurel and cedar, to chart my dreams, so far and wide and away from this, my childhood’s coast.

*************************************************************************************

ver. 1

Gasoline and brackish water
sloshes in the black bottom of the battered
aluminum boat lodged in the sands.
We push off to check the trot lines.
It’s night, the lake more a sound of lapping waves
than a visible place, but the outboard
cancels that reassuring sound.
I hold a light on the bank for navigation
and we move along the rocky shores
cross open sloughs until we come
to the one the line is stretched across.
We find the jug that holds it up,
it’s my job to grab it, then hold the light
as my father lifts the slime laden line
out of the dark waters. First he would
hold it like a telegraph, feeling for a deep tug
that would foretell our harvest. Then the slow
hand over hand revelation of the hooks
nibbled clean and bright. For each, another
blood red ball of stink bait is molded on and gently
lowered back into the green depths.
Tonight an empty line, and the outboard
sputters back to its belching life
to carry us out of night’s equal void
to where our cinder block cabin waits.
Last edited by pomespennyeach on Fri Sep 17, 2021 11:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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CalebPerry
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Wed Sep 15, 2021 7:41 pm

This is a lovely poem written in gentle language which is easy to relate to, although I would probably relate a little better if I had ever gone fishing (my parents weren't the outdoorsy types). I looked up "trot line", and that helped.

I think you've done a good job. You've managed to create a palpable mood in the poem -- in other words, the poem is atmospheric. There is some moving language in the poem, like "equal void", which I like.

Well done.
If you don't like the black theme, it is easy to switch to a lighter color. Just ask me how.

If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.
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Leaf
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Wed Sep 15, 2021 9:27 pm

Hi PPE,

I enjoyed reading this too. I've never done any sort of fishing, and I did have to google 'trot lines'. I looked at Wikipedia's page on 'Jug fishing' too. But I didn't mind the research, because I like to learn new things

I find the entire poem very atmospheric; you held my attention throughout. The clarity of the language really helped me to experience everything, from the sights to the sounds to the smells. That's something I really appreciate about poetry, how it can introduce me to new worlds.

The only suggestion I have is to think about spacing things out a bit, but that's a small thing, really. Thanks for posting!

Best wishes,
Leaf
pomespennyeach
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Thu Sep 16, 2021 4:05 am

Your lake poems inspired me to write this. For some reason, I think because those memories are almost sacred to me, I've never written about those years I visited the lake cabin almost weekly (age 6-about 16) except obliquely in a poem about my father's death.
Macavity
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Thu Sep 16, 2021 10:07 am

hold it like a telegraph,
Like that one. Evocative poem, heavy with authentic details that bring the reader into the experience.
to where our cinder block cabin sleeps.
Just a thought

best

mac
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Leaf
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Thu Sep 16, 2021 7:04 pm

I like mac's thought. Happy to have inspired this one, PPE. It's hard to write about what feels sacred, as those poems are always going to mean more to us. I think it's worth a try, though, because they might just be the best poems we could write.

Best wishes,
Leaf
pomespennyeach
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Fri Sep 17, 2021 12:11 pm

CalebPerry wrote:
Wed Sep 15, 2021 7:41 pm
This is a lovely poem written in gentle language which is easy to relate to, although I would probably relate a little better if I had ever gone fishing (my parents weren't the outdoorsy types). I looked up "trot line", and that helped.

I think you've done a good job. You've managed to create a palpable mood in the poem -- in other words, the poem is atmospheric. There is some moving language in the poem, like "equal void", which I like.

Well done.
Thanks for the read Caleb. I was always the odd man out because I hated killing things (influence of my sisters) but I loved going to the lake, so I participated. That's mainly what I was trying to describe. And I was trying to speak in a more clear language than is my usual tendency, so I'm glad that was somewhat successful.
pomespennyeach
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Fri Sep 17, 2021 12:12 pm

Macavity wrote:
Thu Sep 16, 2021 10:07 am
hold it like a telegraph,
Like that one. Evocative poem, heavy with authentic details that bring the reader into the experience.
to where our cinder block cabin sleeps.
Just a thought

Thanks Mac. I like your edit. I feel like it ends rather abruptly, so I wan to work on that.
pomespennyeach
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Fri Sep 17, 2021 11:48 pm

It was suggested I turn this into a prose poem.

Whether it's prose or poem, I'm not sure, but I've revised it and quite enjoyed the experience.
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CalebPerry
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Sat Sep 18, 2021 5:03 am

You just ran into one of my prejudices. To me, line breaks are such an integral part of poetry that I never read prose poems. I just pass right over them. Prose is prose, and poetry is poetry, and the twain will never meet for me.
If you don't like the black theme, it is easy to switch to a lighter color. Just ask me how.

If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.
Macavity
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Sat Sep 18, 2021 6:15 am

I enjoyed reading both versions PPE. Perhaps, there is more vigour in the original because of the focus in linebreaks.

best

mac
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