“Grandpa’s Lesson”

Ray March, author of River in Ruin (which will be published April 1, and which I read and enjoyed; my review will be published in Shelf Awareness) has graciously given his permission for me to share this poem with you here, from his blog. Thanks, Ray.

Grandpa’s Lesson

By Ray A. March

My grandfather on my mother’s side was a quiet man.
That’s what I say from what I can remember.
He was a house painter, but mostly he was a fisherman.
My uncle said grandpa was a mediocre talker.
He was and he wasn’t. It all depended on who he
was around. Maybe that went with being a fisherman.
Not talking too much. And my uncle took from an old
wooden box a paper-thin leather wallet.
“This was your grandpa’s,” he said handing it to me.
Inside the wallet’s cloudy plastic window I could see
my grandpa’s last fishing license. There it was, January 7, 1945,
number 29554. Three dollars.
I don’t know why it took my grandpa so long
to get his fishing license that year because 1945 began on a Monday,
but grandpa waited until the following Sunday to pay his three dollars.
He probably figured there wouldn’t be anybody on the river on a Sunday,
as if that was the only day he had to fish, which it wasn’t.
“My dad,” my uncle would say, “he’d quit in the middle of
the day to go fishing.”
The last time I remember fishing with my grandpa I was eleven
and I couldn’t catch a fish no matter what I did.
So, I watched my grandpa as he played out his fly line.
I knew when he had a bite. I knew when he lost one.
All the while not saying a word.
I could see him silently playing the line out when he had a big one on.
And I would watch the tip of my pole with great concentration,
sometimes imagining it was nodding up and down ever so slightly.
I concentrated so hard, I tried not to think. Of anything.
So, as my grandpa wordlessly reeled in fish after fish
I finally gave up and took off my shoes, rolled up my pants and
prepared to go wading.
“I’m quitting, grandpa, I can’t catch anything.”
He looked over at me and smiled.
“But tell me, grandpa, how do you catch a fish?”
He smiled again and said,
“You got to talk to them.”

“Grandpa’s Lesson” first appeared in Gray’s Sporting Journal, May – June, 2007

I share this for Husband, and all the others who are best able to appreciate literature where it intersects with fishing. (Natalie, I think you have one of them, too?) Although I think the lessons learned here go well beyond fishing. What do you think?

One Response

  1. I really liked that one…communication comes in all forms.

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