The Robert Watson Literary Prize Poem ALASKAN CHARTER

Spring 2013: Issue 93

Kristin Robertson

Fishing the Kachemak takes

more than a hook in a mouth.

 

When the first catch, weighing

twice a grown man, fights back,

 

the gang of local fishermen

circle up to stop the thrashing.

 

After a club thunk to the head,

gaff to the side, the five men resort

 

to a curb stomp, a filleting knife

to the gill, then someone’s .410.

 

With bloodied shins, you wait

your turn. And then the young fish

 

they assign you suddenly squirms

in your hands like a newborn

 

from the womb, slick and risen

and held. You brace yourself

 

over the gunwale before the fishermen

form a crescent around you,

 

your back to the warm constant

of the gold sun. They hand you a club

 

and say, Don’t be a cunt.

With a fifth strike, the spinal cord

 

snaps, slips through your fist

like the string of a wind-swiped kite—

 

and it’ll be years before you know,

dipped in black waders, you were

 

half in your dark grave already.