Rebecca Gayle Howell

Every Job Has a First Day

Slade was pulling minnows out of the dry river

the day we met. Puddles, more or less, was all

that was left. But what could live wanted to and

tried, treading narrow circles, a glide of brittle fins.

He wore those rubber boots, though the sun was

an anvil, and very little wet; he smiled, I remember

that, his nickel smile right at me, his fingers

letting fall the small fishmuscles into a bag filled

with yellow tap. I didn’t ask his name, or what

it was he thought he was doing, but we talked,

I listened as he taught me to relax the hand, just

enough. They can smell, he said, the oils our pores

release when we tense to catch. You have to believe it,

he said. You dont mean any harm.



This poem first appeared in Poetry (June 2015) and is from American Purgatory (Eyewear Publishing, 2017).