by Susandale

Daily, but before sunset, the fisherman comes to the riverbank. And while the world is cradled within the gray arms of dawn, lost stars drift around the fringes of sunrise. The fisherman travels into the moments before daybreak; a time suspended in quiet, and moist with mist.

He sets his lantern down, and takes his bucket with him. He wades from the spongy riverbank, across the shallow river, over to a sandbar then steps on the riverbank to gather his nets. Yesterday, in the late afternoon he laid them there to dry. Legs spread and steady, he swings the nets into the air with wide, stretching motions. He frees his nets into space to get the feel in his shoulders and arms: a motion that tells him it is time to launch them into the water. He watches his nets fall across the river to web it in luminosity, as the sun rises. With abiding rhythms, he will pull them in and out throughout the long day until dusk falls to end his fishing.

The fisherman seems suspended in his movements, so smooth and steady are they, like a water dance of shoulders to nets, nets to the river. Bird songs bloom in the trees, intoxicated bees roll in the flowers, and all are transferred into the totality of the moment. In the background, red mountains rise. Their granite seams hold tight secrets they’ve held since creation. Tall pines run up and down the mountainsides; they spread their arms and drop their green gowns.

This ballet is re-created daily against wide horizons and the deep clouds that sigh into the skies. Flapping wide wings, white herons land to pick their way into the performance; they lift their long legs, like stilts they set down on the sandbar.

Starring in the ballet is the little fisherman of hard muscles, and motions of such grace that he becomes a part of the entirety; man as one with the elements…the mossy riverbank, the arching skies, and the waters rushing onwards.

Schools of trout stay to the edges of the shaded river; their tailfins propel their bodies. In unison, baby catfish swim through the sun-kissed river. It splashes around smooth rocks and foams over beaver-built dams.

Dazed afternoon is afloat in the air. The wind whispers; shadows lengthen and widen until sunset spills its flames into the sky.

The fisherman gathers up his nets to pull silver fish from their webbings. He drops the wiggling fish plop, plop into a water-filled bucket then he bends to lay his nets out to dry. Tomorrow he will gather them up again, as surely as time, as constant as the river’s flow.

Through the shallow waters he wavers back and forth to hold his balance; his fishing bucket he holds high. He climbs on shore to walk to his lantern. In one easy motion, he hunkers to light it.

Now he begins a homeward journey, down a path of fallen leaves and pastel seashells: jaunty his steps. In one hand he holds his bucket of fish; his lit lantern swings from the other. The glow of the lantern’s light falls across his path and guides him to another light, that of an acetylene lamp that shines in the doorway of his thatched hut. There, lantern and lamp join to broaden into the enduring light of the fisherman’s homecoming.

Susandale’s poems and fiction are on WestWard Quarterly, Mad Swirl, Penman Review, The Voices Project, and Jerry Jazz Musician. In 2007, she won the grand prize for poetry from Oneswan. Two chapbooks, The Spaces Among Spaces from languageandculture, and Bending the Spaces of Time from Barometric Pressure have been on the internet.