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March 2007, vol 3 no 1

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Richard Straw

Stone by Stone

After a late afternoon visit to dad's grave, I start heading south on Route 23, but exit at Norton and detour east a mile past a gun and tackle shop, a rifle range, and a country graveyard. Dad once said on our way to one of his fishing spots that the 19th-century occupants of that cemetery had been moved stone by stone to higher ground from their original resting places so that Delaware Dam could be built by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Just past a long bridge that crosses the Olentangy, which feeds the reservoir north of the dam, a dirt road that looks familiar slopes to the water. Dust rises as my van descends toward a mud-rutted boat ramp. On a day too hot for fishing, I park in a tree's shade by a clearing, the only vehicle in sight.

Using one of dad's 35-mm cameras and a new roll of black-and-white film, I take a dozen photos of the still water, the rocky outcrops in the bridge's shadow, the weeds and cattails, and a stone slab by the ramp. And I know as I frame it that it's the same slab where dad sat grinning with a just-lit cigarette dangling from his mouth more than 40 years ago. He was in a folding lawn chair, had caught a catfish, a tiny one, and was holding it up with his right hand for me to photograph with his Kodak Baby Brownie. Beneath the shadow of his fishing cap, his young eyes smile into the lens.

Before getting back in the van for the long drive home, I try to remember where the bait shop was that we'd stop to buy bread, Moon Pies, and small three- or four-gulp bottles of Nehi. For bait, we'd bury small hooks in Wonder Bread spitballs. Sometimes, though, dad bought a cup of slimy night crawlers that would squiggle and bleed when pierced. The savvy catfish and brim nibbled on the worms' wiggling exposed parts as our red-and-white bobbers occasionally slipped below the water's surface and floated eventually, weightlessly, toward us through the low sun's glare.

dark shoreline
one last cast
with the wind


The haiku first appeared in Modern Haiku, Volume XIX, Number 2, Summer 1988.