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Lake Buena Vista, California.

At dusk, if you are lucky,
this man-made lake’s surface
lays as still as hand beaten metal,
the thin imperfect mirror of which
breaks with each fish biting
at the steel ceiling of this water
they are indentured to. This evening,
the stepfather, in his cutoff jeans,
wades knee deep to chum this cove
with chicken liver blood, the stain
of which seems to grow across
the surface while you tie the barbed hooks.
You know soon the cheap livers will thin.
You know soon he will turn to you
and you will peel off your shirt,
and give the scarred lines he wrote
on your back a little late sun
before taking this dirty lake’s baptism
and dive down to the bottom
filled with mudsuckers and weeds
and the clams you find handfuls of
sifting blindly through the muddy silt,
and when you rise through
that bloody water, you will redeem
the night with your poor bait.
Stepfather, here is my offering
of truce, these clams I place on the shore,
and here a catfish that swallowed
a hook I cannot undo. Once again
it’ll be whiskered channel cat
with its thin wafer of tail fried
with potatoes for dinner,
and we will use a simple slice
of thawed white bread to mop
what remains on the plate’s bottom.

Lindsay Wilson is an English professor in Reno, Nevada, and has edited the literary journal, The Meadow, since 2006. He has published five chapbooks, and his first collection, No Elegies, won the Quercus Review Press Spring Book Award. His poetry has appeared in The Bellevue Literary Review, Pank, The Portland Review, Verse Daily, and The Missouri Review Online.

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