"Come fishing," he'd say.
I would trot beside him
as he made his way
through deep meadow grasses
to the edge of the river.
He'd hold back the whiplash branches
like a gentleman.
Feigning interest in the muddy shore
or the sun-splashed water, I hid my tears
while the worm struggled,
imagining the hook in my own soft neck,
and when the careless fish, lured by something
improbably free, gasped in my father's hand,
I spied flowers far down the riverbank
and fled to pick them.
A bucket of worms to start,
a creel of fish to finish.
And a handful of black-eyed susans
for my mother, waiting at home,
who didn't like to see worms suffer either
and so gave me these hours with my father
as a gift.
"Home now," he'd say
and the day would coalesce in satisfaction,
fish, flowers, and father inextricably linked.