Lighter Side
September 4th, 2000
The Photograph
by John Engles

Excerpt from: Big Water
Published by Lyons & Burford, New York, NY
We thank Nick Lyons for use permission!

From the young birch lining the far shore
the crows called, erupted into the sky
out of the yellow leaves, flurried there,
fell back. The sun was high,

everything in perfect order on the raft,
the anchor rope in a tight spiral, weighted
by the scarlet coffee can half-filled
with cedar-smelling loam

from the swamp's edge. He spilled
a handful onto the rough pine
of the deck, threaded a worm, let it down,
careful it didn't snag, until the line

went slack, and he thought the lead
had touched bottom, drew it up a bit,
then waited, leaning over, trying to see
into the shadows among the twists

of pickerel weed, the light
where it touched the water going green,
slanting down into the weed beds, silvery
with dusts and pollens. Over the clean

sand bottom schools of yellow perch,
bluegill, redear, lavender and flash
of shiners, waver and ripple of light,
shorts bursts of gold and green

where the young bass fed. But nothing
happened, nothing. He waited for a bite,
and when he looked up his eyes
dazzled at the sky. It was as if he still

were looking into water, for the sun
was low, and a green light rose
from among the cedars. His mother stood
on the beach and called, but he chose

not to hear, though she called and called.
At last he looked up and saw her there
farther off than he thought,
her dress blowing, her feet in deep sand.

So he began to paddle back, the raft
wanting to turn in circles, the wind
opposing him. So he stood and leaned
into the paddle, dug heard, looked up again

and saw the beach was empty, the lake
ruffling, the water gone dense
and steely. It took him more time
than he'd thought he had to get back. It was not

as if truly he'd had a choice - the wind
had turned against him, and when
he stared into the water his face
did not look back. He felt the rain begin.

and while he struggled toward the beach
his mother came back and took a photograph
that caught the raft low down in the chop
seeming a powerful distance from shore,

and him, paddle in hand, the birch
on the far shore bristling up from the snowy sand,
everything badly overexposed - it frightened him to see
how far out on the lake he'd been.

He was frightened not to see
his face, but only a dark shape
under the hat brim. Even though
it had been in Klondike in St. Marie's General Store

where he'd stood to hold and see the photograph,
to his bare feet the plank floor solid, dry
and gritty, it hadn't been at all
certain that the foolish one in the photograph

wasn't slowly sinking into the lake, endangered
and alone, calling out to the mother who stood intent
her camera to her eye, framing him there,
catching the birches, the crows overhead,

the lake rising on him - somehow the fishy air
gathering, the sky gathering, around him
the deepening smell of cedar before rain
the blue surge of lightning for the moment withheld.
~ John Engles


About John Engels


John Engels has taught English Literature at St. Michaels's College in Winooski, Vermont for many years. He is the author of five books of poetry, including The Homer Mitchell Place, Vivaldi in Early Fall, and Weather-Fear, for which he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is recognized as one of America's finest poets. He lives in Burlington, Vermont.


Other Poems:

River Bed by Dave Motes
Canyon's coming -- Gunnison by Dave Motes
The Flyline by Dave Motes
Rising Spirits by Dave Salamone
Shadow Jungle or Pike? by Dave Motes
The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop
The Ongoing Saga of Castwell and Ladyfisher by Randy Fratzke
Not My Own by Dave Salamone
Plunge Pool Brookie by Dave Motes
Breaking by Dave Motes
White Miller by John Engels
A Fisherman Reflects (A Tribute to Lee Wulff) by Bob Jacklin
Fly Box by H. Wheeler Perce
When Dreams Are Cast by Dave P. Salamone
Upon the Morn by David Salamone
The Disconnections by John Engels
Damselfly, Trout, Heron by John Engels
Why I Fly-Fish by Ernie Harrison
Oh, what a Day by David P. Salamone
Memories of More than One by David P. Salamone
Mudtrapped by John Engels
What I Leave Behind by David P. Salamone
The Way It Was by Ernie Harrison
Awakening by David P. Salamone
Eros Tyrannos by James Armstrong
Genesee River by David P. Salamone
There Is More by Ken Abrames
New York by David P. Salamone
Reflection by David P. Salamone
Last Waltz by David P. Salamone
Equanimity by Ken Abrames
Deadpool by John Engels
Fly Fishing by Tony Grenier
This Earth by Gwen Frostic
On Waters' Edge by D.P. Salamone
Truth or Tale? by D.P.Salamone
When Rod and Line Again Appear by D.P.Salamone
Too Soon by D.P.Salamone
In Golden Light by D.P. Salamone
The Switch by D.P. Salamone
At Night On The River by John Engles
Rainbows False-Spawning by John Engles
Hatch by John Engels
My Choice by Geno Loro
Falling In by John Engles
The Guardian of the Lakes at Notre Dame by John Engels
Foote Brook by John Engels
Looking For Water by John Engels
Gutting Bluefish by John Engels
The Storm by John Engles
Muskrat by John Engels
Thunder River by John Engels
Forever by D.P. Salamone
Aquarium by John Engels
Bass by Fred Mather
The Crows by John Engles
To Love a Stream by F. Thomas
Opening Day, 1997 by F.Thomas
Pewter River Haiku by Louis J. Wentz
My Highlight of Fly Fishing by D.P. Salamone
So Complicated But Simple Life by D.P. Salamone
Fly Fishing by W.J. Mallory
Here's to the Girl - by Sherman Ripley
Age Lessening by D.P. Salamone
Spring Fever by AF Westervelt
FlyTying by W.J. Mallory
FAOL Fish-In Friendship by D.P. Salamone
Acronyms by D.P. Salamone
Signs of a Highway by W.J. Mallory
Drift Fishing by W.J. Mallory
A Hunters Poem unknown
In Flander's Fields by John McCrae
Lonesome Coho by W.J. Mallory
The Marshes At Suamico, Wisconsin by John Engles
East Middlebury by John Engles
The Raft by John Engles
Eternal Father (Navy Hymn)
Pilgrimage by John Engles
Testament of a Fisheman by Robert Traver
At Night On the Lake In The Eye of the Hunter by John Engles
Indulgence on the Wharfe by Gordon M. Wickstrom
G     n Creek by W.J. Mallory
The Song of Wandering Aengus by William Butler Yates
The Au Sable by W.J. Mallory
You're On the Miramichi by William T. Griffin
The Photograph by John Engles
Flye Fishing by L A Garcia
Green Bay Flies by John Engles
T.R.O.U.T. by DP Salamone
Beyond The Fly by DP Salamone
Hemingway, You Old Bear by Joseph Heywood
Individuality by Gwen Frostic
Wa'al I'll be Durn by Francis H. Buzzacott
The Salmon Leap by Francis H. Buzzacott
The Old Bass Ground by Francis H. Buzzacott
When the Bull-Heads Bite by Francis H. Buzzacott
A Photo of My Mother and My Grandpa Lighting Out by John Engles
The Last Day by Deanna Lee Birkholm
The North Branch by John Engles
A Military Christmas unknown
Calendar-spring by David Motes
The Fly Box by John Engles
Game Warden's Lament
author unknown
Big Water by John Engles
The Best Kept Fishing Secret by Andy Hogan
While fly-fishing by Brian Nerney
On Common Water by Andy Hogan
The Last Cast by Andy Hogan
(unknown) by Alfred Lord Tennison
A Good Fight by Andy Hogan
The Bonny Red Heckle North Country Fisher's Garland
This Here Hat's Fer Fishin by Andy Hogan
Un-named By Westwood
Potomac Water Gap by David Motes
More Beyond Time by Gwen Frostic
Grasshopper-hands by David Motes
When Did We Go To The Michigan Woods? by Anna C. Brackett
Behold the Fisherman! unknown
Freedom Isn't Free unknown
From: Beyond Time By Gwen Frostic
Legend of Glooskap By Arthur Wentworth Eaton
Rainbow Rising By David Motes
Fly With A Gull By Gwen Frostic
Self-Knowledge By Kahlil Gibran
The Invitation By Percy Bysshe Shelley
Untitled By Charles Cotton
A Pleasant Time Out By Stoddard
The Brook By Lord Tennyson
Unnamed By W.Pinkerton
The Auld Fisher's Farewell to the River Coquet By Thomas Doubleday
Excerpt from Beyond Time By Gwen Frostic
Words You Never Tell a Guide By Joseph Haywood
Mind Farts & Memory Exercises By Joseph Haywood
First Night at Camp Fish Head By Joseph Haywood
I Am the Flag of the United States of America
Untitled By Whitier
The Fisherman By Jack Schweigert
Retail Night Before Christmas By Al Campbell
Splitting Oak on Motherís Day By Joe Heywood
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Fly Rod By Eugena Pilek
In Flanders Fields By John McCrae
Fisherman's Luck By Edward R. Hewitt
Happy Turkey Day By Al Campbell
The Story of The Christmas Guest By Helen Steiner Rice
Fishing By Edith Andrews Sturgis
August 25, 1971 - Jocko River above Arlee, Montana By Brian Ahern
Mr. Cortland By Cole Martin
Fishing By Edith Andrews Sturgis
A Midwinter Reflection By Russ Larsen (Bassbugg)
Christmas Bells By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
A Trout Angler's Prayer At Christmas By Reverend Daniel P. Adams
An Old Scottish Poem
Voices in the Wall, Requiem 3 By Stev Lenon
In Honor of Memorial Day 2006
Little Brown Wink By G.E.M. Skues
In Flanders Fields By John McCrae
The Little Things By Richard A. (Dick) Taylor


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