Doug Van Gundy


I am too small to concern him.

He is seeking sleeker, keeper-sized fish:

spotted brown trout and iridescent rainbows.


From beneath the water, I cannot see the line to which the fly is tied,

only his liquid arms, the slow smooth motion of casting and recasting,

the pausing and snaking.


I have been watching him for hours,

and have seen the larger fish pulled into the sky,

kissed and then released.

I have raced to their sides to ask them what it’s like.


“It’s like dying” one says. And then, “It’s beautiful.

If only I could breathe up there.  You can’t

imagine the taste of air on your skin

and the sweet heavy sensation of feeling your own weight.”

He drifts to a dark place beneath a sandstone ledge

to dream of a life above water.


I long to live in my father’s sky,

in his world of clouds and boots and moss-lined creels.

In that moment I will be large enough to keep,

large enough that he will tuck me into his creel,

carry me home, and teach me the language

that lives inside new lungs.


“Keeper” is from A Life Above Water, (Red Hen Press, 2007).