This time of year, the lake is mine alone.
So are the woods. The trees have only buds,
so sunlight fingers reach the forest floor
soon after they unfold a creamy hand
above the eastern hill. The grains of ice
that form at night on twigs and leaves of grass
reflect the light and glitter as they melt.
In windless hours, the scent of rich, wet soil
is strong, the fresh air trembles with the life
and power straining for release, and I
am filled, rekindled, set afire by one
exquisite draw of breath. (The darker hours
are, if I’m up in time to see them, crisp
and brittle tokens of the frigid hold
from which the warming Earth is breaking free.)
This time of year, canoes make different sounds
when gliding in the water; paddles seem
to make no sound at all. This time of year,
my casting line floats through the morning mist
and drops the heavy lure with little more
disturbance than a whisper. When the sun
is high enough to lift the fog, I stop
to sip the black and steaming coffee from
the Thermos lid. It’s then I realize that
I’ve yet to get a bite, and that my mind
has been on other men who loved this time
of year. It’s then I realize that my rod
and reel are tools to reach beyond myself.
By going where they went, by doing what
they did, by knowing what they loved, I try
to draw them near. I hope to hold them here.
I put the lid back on the coffee, swing
the bow toward a likely shoreline knot
of roots and lift my rod. This time of year,
I fish for something deeper, sweeter. This time
of year, the lake is overrun by one.