Lesson by Alice Cole

When you taught me to fish, you taught me to slit

Their bellies, clean, up through the jaw.

The rainbow. The brown. The speckled trout.

Get a good grip, take the hook out,

Thumbs together on the neck, a quick snap,

Make the slit, gut them with the thumb,

Run it up along the spinal column,

Dump the guts and the dumb brain

Into the stream. My hands went numb

Rinsing the pink flesh in the moving water.

You taught me to cut the line, leaving the hook

When I caught the ones too little to keep.

You said their chances were better for survival.

You called last night when the bars closed.

When the phone rang, I struggled from sleep,

Knowing it was you, knowing

That before morning you would call.

I listened barefoot in the winter dark, going numb,

Growing in the certainty we've lost

The subtle point where sport becomes brutality.

I cut the line.

From "Wingbone: Poetry From Colorado" (Sudden Jungle Press, P.O. Box 310, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80901: $9.95; 157 pp.), edited by Janice Hays and Pamela Haines. Alice Cole, who has published poetry and articles in several Colorado journals, lives in Colorado Springs. 1986, Sudden Jungle Press, by permission.

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