Posted on February 11, 2013


Words are ghosts of ideas;

Love, the palest spectre of all.


Image: Sky river, behind the Cathedral

This story came in dreams, from IMs, in bars. I wrote most of it in snatches on ferries one magical year when I went to the OP a dozen times chasing other dreams. I was afraid to type it, that I would break it. I finally did (typed or broke or both) on an airplane. Too wordy to be a poem, not structured enough to be a story, it’s more of a punctuated dream. A riversong.  None of it ever happened, but it is all completely true.

Water is dream-colored, ubiquitous.

Like water, my whole life I was there and not there. I coalesced from water into seed and zygote, gill-breathing in my mother’s womb. Stages of the brain developed into warm blood, but always surrounded by water, full of water, made of water.

All streams have fish, if you follow them far enough. When I was a boy, in my backyard was a swale that became a ditch. The ditch went into a blueberry marsh, which although only slightly taller than me was as impenetrable, and frightening, and dark, as Latin mass. The cross-ditched marsh collected on the other side into a rivulet that then ran under an ancient fieldstone bridge. The rivulet wending across the woods and fields joined a stream in the ancient orchard. My first stream.  Far too small for fish. I followed it to the sea, rodless, flyless, unknowing, where sea-run brown trout first spoke to me, unlistening. The sea, in turn took me to other streams, rivers and their trout. And the trout took me to her.

I met her in a bar. She took me dancing .  A ONE and two and a three. Rock step. It was like trying to learn Aikido in a street fight.  She was a frost-glade dancer and I was a stumble-foot-crank-trout-eyed dog; out of water everywhere I went. But I went, because you can bay at the moon in the sky, but you can only touch the moon in the water.  I never did learn to dance, but in the river I still counted my steps ONE, two and three, and never stumbled.

Another taught her to fish. She called me from afar, “It’s the most romantic thing I ever did.”

The last thing she said to me was “I want to fish everywhere.”  I would’ve spoken poetry to her, the words suspended in my mouth like a hover of brook trout, levitating resplendently, then banished in astonishment to secret lairs by her shadow thrown upon their pool. Instead, I gave her all of my equipment and she went into the world. Later, long after she passed, my stanzas would re-appear gasping on the bank, all of their beauty gone in the inspection of their demise.

Fish are ovoid, silver, sleek, their cold blood driving passion, but they don’t care who loves you.   I drifted in languid pools of verse and meter, but my poetry ran downstream of me one clever verse at a time slipping through my fingers and me long since ceasing to chase it. I learned water is not the opposite of fire, but its complement.  It could not put out the torch of her flame.

The heart is a wave and the cast a pulse, building in the shallows of the capillaries, coursing in the veins. Where there had been a rod my arteries reached out to my ligaments vibrating, backed by sinew to exit the finger tips as a fine spray mist landing soft as fog on the water, a drop of intent. I became what trout seek. I’d stopped using barbs. I’d stopped using hooks. I’d stopped using flies. I did not catch fish; I had become a river. The water flowed through me, in me, cold, deep, swirling.  Fish swam in me, at home in my bloodstreams, rising to my pulse, sipping at my desires as they floated by cast upon the water. I spoke to myself and the fish listened; I beckoned and they came as they should. We whispered together like lovers and satiated, drifted apart.

We do not swim freely in the ocean of life.  Memory is a brook, becoming a stream, becoming a river, unbraiding into a delta until you cannot sort it out. She faded like dreams fade. But she was still smoke in my marrow; my blood breathed it, part of me, intangible.

The past was hazy, but the follies of the heart were not spent. I had not fooled her, she never rose to my fly, returned my attentions. But I had stalked her, seen her, it seemed enough. It was years before I realized I stalked bigger game.  I had been caught and released so many  times I’d failed to notice this one hook,  buried deep, pulling me on against the current. I became tangled in her cast, foul-hooked or fair I cared not. You do not miss a woman who is a dream, only when she becomes a probability. This is seduction. Dangling you on the line between.  This is where madness lies.

Once, in Oregon, I smelled her, pine in an oak forest. In Argentina, a glint of auburn hair at river’s bend. Once, on the Pemigewassett,  she was across the river from me. I forded under the weight of need, swimming in the shoals of her breath, but as I crossed, the river changed direction and I could not defeat the wily flows. Her casts, harmonic, disappeared downstream.  Upstream from me.

She picked up stones on the river, painted verses on them. I used to see the places where the stones had been, memorizing their depressions, knowing I would find them later on other shores.  I had found them on the Ur, and once, chumming with the rust of my soul  drinking samogon in an illegal Quonset hut bar on the Usk, lying on the floor and looking up, under the table, a note wedged:

Rivers run

Forever young

With age swept to the sea

Where flying done

They add

To the voids of eternity

I floated through time; it marked my sides in lurid spots. I lived in water years. How far does a drop go in a year, in a river, to the sea, up to a cloud blown across a continent down to a plain, deep in the ground, percolating?  Or, maybe frozen forever in time and space, not moving.  I no longer felt water or wind; sun or rain; day or night; summer or winter. I forgot where home was. You can do that until you recognize yourself. Then you remember it is the last place you were you on a summer night with all of your dreams before you. Like a salmon you taste it in your cells and it draws you back even when you cannot feel it, slowly reeling you in.

I ran to the river that ran through me, and she was there. I had come home with all my dreams before me. I walked towards her but the water was upon me until I surrendered and with every step I became more liquid, dissolving. Subsumed, I flowed up upon her, lapping at her legs, a momentary eddy, a tug at a smile, being-to-being in a laminar caress, pulling away too quickly in turbulent vortices. I decoalesced. It was luminous, incandescent. On my tumbling way, the trout swam through me; my blood their water, caught in my dreams.

As it ever was.

What Was Your Favorite Line?

Just for the fun of it, I thought I would add an “add your favorite line” contest. Let’s say if I get 10 responses, I’ll send somebody a print of  the title image.

Ellen Goodman:

Upon first read, my favorite line is this: Memory is a brook, becoming a stream, becoming a river, unbraiding into a delta until you cannot sort it out.

Ryan Davey:

“In Argentina, a glint of auburn hair at river’s bend.” gave me a little shiver as it evoked a long forgotten memory!   I have to say though, that last line really captured me: “On my tumbling way, the trout swam through me; my blood their water, caught in my dreams. As it ever was.”  Thanks for sharing Jon!  Always enjoy your posts!  Ryan Davey – Adventure Angler – Primal Angler – #flynomad #worldanglr #fishninja #riverwalker #primalangler #adventureangling

Loren Goodman:

Once in Oregon, I smelled her, pine in an oak forest.

Elizabeth Jewell:

Website: http://dreamnewengland.wordpress.com/

Very fluid, liquid like mercury; dark and beautiful and dangerous…
Keep this up and people will begin to think you are a romantic !
“I did not catch fish; I had become a river.”


Comment: First impression stands.
“I lived in water years.”

Bob Triggs:

Website: http://olympicpeninsulaflyfishing.blogspot.com
Comment: “She was a frost glade dancer and I was a stumble-foot-crank-trout-eyed dog. Out of water everywhere I went.”


Water is dream-colored, ubiquitous.

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