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 TroutWater-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 © 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.
About the Author
Ted Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa, in 1939. He is the author of a number of collections of poetry, including Flying at Night (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), Delights & Shadows (Copper Canyon, 2004), and Sure Signs (1980). His nonfiction books include The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets (University of Nebraska Press, 2005) and Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps (University of Nebraska Press, 2002).
Kooser is the U. S. Poet Laureate (2004-2006) and a professor in the English Department of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He lives on an acreage near the village of Garland, Nebraska, with his wife Kathleen Rutledge, the editor of the Lincoln Journal Star.