R. Yurman

The Float ‘n’ Fly

beat-up floor boards and all-wood
stools that’s cracked and dried
shop next door’s the Bait ‘n’ Tackle--
most bars don’t even open till noon
but these folks want something
before they go out
could be 5 a.m.
or mid-morning
when they come back in
turns my days upside down
from what they was

when I worked that divey place
in town next to the all-night diner
Chat ‘n’ Chew-- seems like every place
around here has to have two names like that--
anyways the men is about all the same
my age and older
lean and gray
whether their eyes are dull or clear
get up at four to go after the fish
or stay up till three
staring into the bottom of a glass

this lake’s clearer than whiskey
and the fish jump dawn or evening
at every fly they cast
to hear them tell it
still their creels sit mostly empty
while they hunch their elbows
on the bar and talk
suck on pipes
spit their lungs clear
to catch the smell of mist
the chill off the lake

you know it’s going to be a good day
when the first ones back
come in quietly
lugging something more than air
in those wicker baskets
they sip cool beers
talk about sons
or fathers
the way they used
to get out there and cast
pull in the world

but most days it’s noise
they carry with them
leaning their rods by the door
laughing too loud shouting
at me and each other
tromping their waders
across the floor and rattling the stools

it’s fire they want then
shot glasses lined up on the bar
and fish stories they tell
clanking against the morning cold



At conception
each of us
has a womb companion,
a twin

sloughed off so soon
our mothers are left
unaware of the one
who might have curled beside us.

Deep in that warm dream,
we go on alone
cells dividing madly
to replace

a sister perhaps,
father’s faithful girl --
the daughter he always
longed for--loving

noise and light and the taste
of gambling on the air, she would have
walked beside him, her arm
linking through his, the soft

folds of her dress
kicking out with every step.
Or brother who would have
made our mother laugh,

called her by her name, the child
who would have
let her
love him--she wouldn’t ask

so much from him--would have
fretted less over what
he ate, who he placed with,
what was to become of him.

Mother and father both
might shine in the light
reflected by an offspring
they cold forever hold and stroke.

They had instead to deal with you,
you and your surly touch-avoiding shrug,
had always to ask,
‘What is it we have done?’


What if both survive
clinging to that shared space--
do they look each other
in the eye and think,
‘My image, my shadow,
one of us was supposed
to slip away.’

Womb-mates, they lay
together like sixes curled
feet to face.  Now mother
and father keep seeing
the two as one, a neat pair
of jacks, openers, a hand
to bet and raise.

But they want only to break
away, each claiming his own
name, her own fate.  Still
they share that memory beyond memory
of lying together fluid and warm
ocean-wise like dolphins
all skin and slide.

While the rest of us, untwinned, cannot
recall such easy coupling,
paired moves in the darkness
under our mother’s pulse,
the deep heart-beat
we carry with us
into this world of loss.