American Life in Poetry: Column 028


Although this poem by North Carolina
native Ron Rash may seem to be just
about trout fishing, it is the first
of several poems Rash has written
about his cousin who died years ago.
Indirectly, the poet gives us clues
about this loss. By the end, we see
that in passing from life to death,
the fish's colors dull; so, too, may
fade the memories of a cherished life
long lost.

Speckled Trout

Water-flesh gleamed like mica:
orange fins, red flankspots, a char
shy as ginseng, found only
in spring-flow gaps, the thin clear
of faraway creeks no map
could name. My cousin showed me
those hidden places. I loved
how we found them, the way we
followed no trail, just stream-sound
tangled in rhododendron,
to where slow water opened
a hole to slip a line in
and lift as from a well bright
shadows of another world,
held in my hand, their color
already starting to fade.

First published in "Weber Studies,"
1996, and reprinted from "Raising
the Dead," Iris Press, 2002, by
permission of the author.
Copyright (c) 1996 by Ron Rash,
a writer and professor of
Appalachian Cultural Studies at
Western Carolina University, whose
newest novel is "Saints at the
River," Picador Press, 2005. This
weekly column is supported by
The Poetry Foundation, The Library
of Congress, and the Department of
English at the University of Nebraska,
Lincoln. This column does not accept
unsolicited poetry.