On Lake Seminole

Under a whiskey benediction and the strength of a cloudless dawn,
I float among the dead tops of an almost-flooded pine forest.
I half-expect to pull in a mockingbird, a crow, or maybe even a red-tailed hawk.

I sip from a pint of Four Roses. I also have a tobacco pipe full
of Columbian, leaves and resin. Pot is much more potent
than it was when I was young. The THC content is higher.
Maybe the growers use Miracle Grow.

My grandmother drowned herself in this lake.
My grandfather had had a stroke and was dying.
She parked her car and carefully lay her glasses on the hood.
I remember how my father cried.

I hook a shiner in a way that won’t kill it.
It swims on its tether in the treetops.
I am powerless over any mood-altering substance.
The fishing is inconsequential, really.

When I was a child, I fished for perch from the pier.
My father took me. One day he reached back for a cast
and hooked my upper lip.

The last time I got drunk, I was in Louisiana, in the French Quarter.
I emerged from a blackout in a strange living room.
On the shelf beside me were twenty or so books on witchcraft.
A man and a woman were dividing up a pile of crack cocaine.
The woman gave me a tall Budweiser. My wallet was missing.

The popping cork vanishes into the deep green water.
I pull a good-sized bass into the world of air.
I suddenly feel there is something inherently wrong about this.
I drop the bass into my fish well.

After Jesus’ death, Simon Peter told his friends, “I am going fishing.”
I denied God in my heart two days ago when I took a drink.
I need a headstrong fisher of men.

The sun is stable in the wheel of the sky.
The earth spins me toward it.
Apogee and perigee refer to the moon or man-made satellites orbiting earth.
Aphelion and perihelion refer to our yearly journey around the sun.
Just sitting in this boat, this morning, I move further away
from any reference to a center of any kind.

Being and grace separate,
hopelessly. God blazes in his heaven.
I take the bass out of my fish well
and gently return it to the lake.

Bryan Merck has published in America, Amethyst Arsenic, Eunoia Review, Literary Juice, and others. He has fiction forthcoming in Moon City Review and poetry forthcoming in Triggerfish. He is a past winner of the Southern Literary Festival Poetry Prize and the Barkesdale-Maynard Poetry and Fiction Prizes. He lives in south Georgia with his wife Janice.

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