The First Fish

When I pulled that great fish up out of Lake Skinner’s
     mirrored-double surface, I wanted to release
the tugging beast immediately. Disaster on the rod,
     it seemed he might yank the whole aluminum skiff
down toward the bottom of his breathless world.
     The old tree of a man yelled to hang on and would
not help me as I reeled and reeled finally seeing
     the black carp come up to meet me, black eye to black eye.
In the white cooler it looked so impossible.
     Is this where I am supposed to apologize? Not
only to the fish, but to the whole lake, land, not only for me
     but for the generations of plunder and vanish.
I remember his terrible mouth opening as if to swallow
     the barbarous girl he’d lose his life to. That gold-ringed
eye did not pardon me, no absolution, no reprieve.
     I wanted to catch something; it wanted to live.
We never ate the bottom-feeder, buried by the rose bush
     where my ancestors swore the roses bloomed
twice as big that year, the year I killed a thing because
     I was told to, the year I met my twin and buried
him without weeping so I could be called brave.