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The catfish have the night,
but I have patience
and a bucket of chicken guts.
I have canned corn and shad blood.
And I've nothing better to do
than listen to the water's riffled dark
spill into the deep eddy
where a '39 Ford coupe
rests in the muck-bottom.

The dare growing up:
to swim down with pliers
for the license plates,
corpse bones, a little chrome . . .
But even on the clearest days,
even when the river runs low and clean,
you can't see it,
though you can often nearly see
the movement of hair.

I used to move through my days
as someone agreeable
to all the gears
clicking in the world.
I was a big clumsy Yes
tugged around by its collar.
Yes to the mill, yes to the rain,
yes to what passed
for fistfights and sex, yes
to all the pine boards of thought
waiting around for the hammer.

The catfish have the night
and ancient gear oil for blood,
they have a kind of greased demeanor
and wet electricity
that you can never boil out of them.

The catfish have the night,
but I have the kind of patience
born of indifference and hate.

Maybe the river and I share this.

Maybe the obvious moon
that bobs near the lip of the eddy
is really a pocket watch
having finally made its way downstream
from what must have been
a serious accidentó
the station wagon and its family
busting the guardrail,
the steering wheel jumping
into the man's chest,
his pocket watch hurtling
through the windshield
and into the river.

Wind the hands in one direction
and see into the exact moment of your death.

Wind them the other way
and see all the tiny ways
you've already diedó

I'm going to put this in my breast pocket
just as it is. Metal heart
that will catch the stray bullet
in its teeth.

I chum the water, I thread the barb.
I feel something move in the dark.

Michael McGriff

Home Burial
Copper Canyon Press

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