24 August 2005

James Galvin

[from The Meadow by James Galvin]

When his arm was fully extended he moved his hand underneath the rock, still slow in the current, until he touched a fin slowly wavering like a gently fanning angel’s wing. In his mind he could see the beautifully speckled body as he moved his hand forward to the slick cold under the gills. He began to wave his hand gently from the wrist like a willow branch trailing the current. He stroked back along the sleek form toward the vent to see how big a fish he was rocking to sleep. It was fourteen inches or so, big for a native brookie, enough for a good breakfast.

He massaged softly, working his hand forward, and when his hand was behind the gills again he knew the fish was dead asleep. In one swift motion he grasped it and lifted it out of the water in a shower of gemlike drops that fell back into the creek, which was itself as full of light as it was of water. With a deft motion of his left hand he shoved the head up and back until he heard a definitive snap. He leapt back to the bank, his hand already reaching into his pocket for his clasp knife.

One cut, slick as a zipper, from vent to gills, revealed the inner mysteries. The second cut popped out a flap under the chin. He inserted his thumb and pulled, removing the lower fins, gills, and viscera. He threw them all in one piece back into the stream. It made a gulping sound where it went under. He slid his thumbnail down the bloodline in the spine, dunked the fish, closed his knife one-handed against his hip, and emerged from the willows, breakfast in hand.

If you don't know Galvin, he's a poet. This particular book is an homage, might be called a memoir, and prose only in that it's not lineated.

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