We were alone on the boat –
a green deckhand and a middle-aged Norwegian
riding emerald rollers sprinkled with drops of gold
in the late afternoon sun.
And though you were teaching me
how to get a salmon out of the bag
without popping the mesh,
…..I was somewhere else:
…..off the stern I saw myself
neck deep in Indiana, floundering in all those years
of not knowing who I was. or how to escape
who I had become; drowning in aching nights
spent hoping for the moment I might know
a way to set my feet upon a path of my own.
While I was picking fish with you,
stunned at the sight of the sea so near
and the mountains filling the western sky,
I thought of dry midwestern cornfields,
and of lost, empty days filled with a wish to leave
…..but nowhere to go.
You bent over a red to show me how to use a fish pick,
never realizing what was happening to me,
how you were stripping away the web of my past life,
pulling me through to solid ground.
“Boat Puller” originally appeared in Oberon Poetry Magazine.
A retired educator, Patrick Dixon moved to Alaska in 1975 where he
taught for 23 years. He commercial fished for salmon on Cook Inlet
from 1977-1997. His writings and photography have been published by
The Smithsonian, Oregon Coast, Cirque Literary Journal, The Oberon
Poetry Magazine, The Waterman’s Gazette, The Alaska Fisherman’s
Journal and Pacific Fishing Magazine, among others. Now living in
Olympia, Washington, he reads his work and shows his photographs
throughout the Pacific Northwest.