Arsenic Lobster poetry journal Issue Twenty-nine
Summer 2012
Territorial Poem
Scott T. Starbuck

Stan, an old timer with an artificial heart,
says if I want really good fishing,
get rid of my sissy fly rod and forget rules.
“Instead, go past the No Trespassing sign
around the bend,
and cast a treble hook
above a spark plug.”
His white hair and reddish-brown eyes
make him look like an albino-badger.

“Pour cheap bourbon upstream
to make salmon lethargic
and easier to snag. Works like magic.
You’ll have freezer steaks in no time.
Ned and I can corral them for you
if the water is low enough
and you promise not to tell.”
If he is a badger, Ned is a drunk elk.

“Afterwards, we stomp
on spawning redds for fun
and gut dark fish for eggs,
tossing carcasses in the brush
to hide evidence and, as a bonus,
to sicken farm dogs.”
By now, I back away
but he doesn’t give up.

“Oh, and when you beach a fish,
knife the jaw like you caught it legal,” laughs Stan.

“And don’t forget to pose for a sleek photo
with that store-bought graphite rod
smiling like you had sex with a cheerleader,” laughs Ned.

“And put your photo up
in The Tackle Shack in Coos Bay,” says Stan.
“I think they have a Web site.”

It has become a competition.

“Yeah,” adds Stan. “Did I tell you we slashed over forty
pounds of eggs last year?”

Not to be outdone, Ned claims the ocean
has way too many wild salmon, anyway.

Stan says he filled up three tags.

Ned fishes without a tag.

Stan says he uses a small gillnet at night.

Ned uses dynamite.

Stan says fly fishermen keep disappearing around here
and no one knows why.

Ned says he thinks he knows why.

Stan says when he dies, he’s giving Ned
his artificial heart so Ned can get in a few extra seasons.

Ned plans to extend its life
with WD-40 because it “Lubricates, Cleans, Protects,
Penetrates & Displaces Moisture.”

Stan says he caught a salmon once
with a fisherman’s hand in its belly.

A white truck gives me an idea.

“Oh yeah?,” I stop them,
“Did I tell you I’m a game warden?”

“Good try,” says Stan, but Ned breaks alders
crashing over the ridge.

About Scott T. Starbuck

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