stevie trouble

  fish stew poems

  if it quacks





a collection of poems from the hinterlands

by Kat McElroy

Fish Story
for John Schulz

reprobates and renegades
and those with more time than money
can afford to fish all summer
and come to think it's funny
that the pillars of our society
and those with the final say
have to work all summer
and can only fish one day

the salmon, on the other hand
who neither read nor write
sleep by day and feed and breed
and only run at night
when drunken bums are on the beach
filled with the killer lust
while them that read FIELD & STREAM
will swear that it's a bust
bitching in their brand new tents
with all the best equipment and
end up buying salmon
in the latest air-fresh shipment

Fish Stew At Squaw Creek

take one 36 hour fishing season
add too much whiskey
subtract the fish---they ain't running at all
put a pot of beans on to boil
stir the fire with a wishing stick
hush the hungry children with story talk
listen to the fish bums snore
watch the eager terns---they hungry, too
put yr feet in the creek to cool
wonder why the sun so hot
chop some kindling for the morning fire
wander absent-mind around fish camp
look for the boat to come
make chit-chat with the raging river
better to check them beans
chop an onion, yeah, they smell real good
maybe the fish come tonight
fish-head chowder taste like to go to heaven
or use that can of milk in yr coffee?
I dunno, mama, I just don't know
and, what do ya s'pose fish & game guys
eating for supper right now?

Fish Stew Two

fish camp like a model of the universe
ya gets what ya takes and ya takes what ya gets
3000 fish-bums hit Chitina June 1st
and leave June 3rd with three fish amoungst them

at Squaw Creek the outlaws eat illegal catch
siwashed-up, waiting for the warm rain
they know will bring the run
a bucket of fish guts is hauled 500 yards
up trail, beyond tumble-down cabins
of turn of the century fisher-folk
to where brother bear has left sign
in the juniper bushes and lupine
of an old creek bed
25 cases of empty pint cans
need to be filled for winter meat
maybe the fish will come
maybe we will get lucky with the bear

meanwhile the camp cunt amuses herself
with endless pots of beans
and fashions planters to take home
of rusted out tin wash basins
bedded with moss and wild roses

That Urge To Splurge

I have been sitting here feeling sorry
for the poor salmon whose only crime
is their inborn instinct
to travel upstream
to return to their birthgrounds
to spawn

it should just be
so simple
for humans

Owner's Manual For Humans Being

life is a lot like a new dip net
ya start out shiny, bright, supple and eager
each knot intact, each attachment firm and final
along the way, ya get snagged and bumped
bent, twisted, snarled and torn
and there are places
where ya come quite undone

patience and skill are required
to keep yr whole act from falling apart
ya gotta keep a close eye on yr spare and missing parts
nor can ya be discouraged by newer models
with longer poles, wider mouths, deeper nets
whose knots seem somehow superior to yrs
not yet pieced together and made over
of odds and ends that the river threw up

in the end, it is never the prettiest
but the best-used pole that catches
the most and biggest fish
a well used net is the loveliest
and oh the stories they must tell
when after much service and abuse
they are, at last, put up at season's end

To Fish Or Knot

no tobacco in camp and the fish bums nap and knot
look at this, see here, a double half-hitch
the dumb camp cook wonders
"doesn't that make one whole hitch?" but no

the little squaw learns the difference between a fib and a square knot
the coffee boils, the wind sucks, the fish folk mutter
salmon roiling in the river, thick and fast, a mighty run
but season's closed 'til morrow noon, it's hard to wait
hard to watch the fishy slip past so easy
chowder for supper--seven pint jars didn't seal
it's cold and blowing up a storm to spill down on our heads

here's a butterfly, a cat's claw, a monkey's paw
a bowline, a sheeps's shank, a knotted hand-line
what a woman might learn if only she would pay attention
instead of staring vaguely at the fire
filling root cellars not yet dug

the roses are just greening out now
three weeks late
what do roses and fishes know?
not knots, but comets perhaps
not WHY
but that it WILL be cold

In The Company Of Men

they make it look so easy
twelve hours at the dip nets
feet set root-like, arms swinging
long poles sweeping, bent backs straining
watching, I feel so proud
to be a daughter
of the mighty species of man
who have done mortal battle immemorial
to murder fish, to bring home meat

I am just a woman, woman born
I stayed at home the many years
birth-smell is rawer than the stink of the kill
sharper, sweeter, hotter
more mysterious
a smaller, harder piece of work
to let life drop bloodied from between yr legs
while swallowing the bubble of anger/fear/joy
for worry the birth noise might disturb man

yet men exault in murder, primordial pleasure shared
in the holy bachelor brotherhood of bums
while we sisters/mothers/daughters
mumble and whisper and stir the fire

Fish Stew Three---Feeling Too Female

kinda crazy being the only cunt in camp
the wind blows but the cook won't
after two weeks I begin to suspect
that femalehood is viewed as more a curse than blessing

haul the water, tend the fire, fret and fuss
put the coffee on to boil, "Whatcha cook for us?"
could ya wash these socks? would ya scratch my back?
making do, use it up, do without, catching flak

beans again? and salmon? same old shit
don't nag the cunt, she's on the rag, she'll pitch a fit
these fish bums being men-folk take for granted
those "god-given" male-established facts
that a woman with a frown-on is hormonal
while a man with a hard-on's only normal

and tell me, flounder, if you will
how did politics get into my stew?
when there's still fish need smoking
and the midnight sun is such unholy blue

Fish Camp Feminism

in my heavy black rubber boots
I am the equal to any man
I, too, can stand proudly to pee
without wetting my pant's leg

and, I must admit a certain thrill,
when tromping up the trail, to hear
small critters scurry from my path
that barefoot and padding as is my wont
would otherwise stand boldly and chirp and chatter
challenging my passage

And Don'tcha No It Now

today I learned how not to open
a spring-loaded rewind starter
my bloodied knuckles remind me
that I remember best those lessons
that scar me in the learning
failure made us tough, I do believe
while easy success
always breeds
and contempt

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

y'know, I was just watching my daughter down by the creek
catching spiders inna jar, trying to teach 'em how to speak
I really dunno where she gets such weird ideas
but, I imagine, society will blame her mother, if ya please

because I have a screw loose and would rather see
her running crazed in fish camp than at the Tastee Freez
I like to see her wet and cold, slimey with scales and guts
to have experienced failure, to know first-hand what's what

it cracks me up to hear, from strangers on the beach
horror tales of the wild-child, that one with the filthy mouth
she'll tell me later, "they were so dumb, they could not catch a fish
they think I'm just a stupid kid, they ought to move back south"

This is Just a Test---The Radio Says

this is only a test of the emergency broadcast system

if this had been an actual emergency
as we used to say as kids
close yr eyes, cover yr head, kiss yr ass goodbye
welcome hero, at ground zero

no sense to panic now
the damage has been done
it's about thrity years too late
and the radio has been of no assistance whatsoever
in any emergency
in my entire life

And, She Says

a poem, she informs me
with the bland self-assurance of nine year olds
is s'posed to rhyme

some poems do, others don't
I reason with her
harkening back three decades
in my mind, to simpler times
when all poems rhymed
and stuff made sense

she ain't buying a bit of it, tho
she shakes her head
her face darkens with suspicion

is this more adult stuff her eyes ask
something else she isn't gonna understand
'til "later"

The Call Of The Wilds

it's never easy being someone's pet
becoming tamed is always somewhat more
than coming to sit at the fire

along with the supper dish
is the master's hand
which often touches kindly
but can also be turned
to bend you to their will

I'm not saying it isn't fun
I never yet had much regret
for learning a new trick
like beg or fetch or stay
or the inevitable roll over, Rover

I admit I whine and nuzzle
a glutten for the muzzle
but what I mostly wonder is why
when, as always, I'm let to stray
the master claims I was too wild
and blames me for my wandering way

loose dogs all began as someone's fantasy
not of what is, but of what might be
and though I am quick to domesticate
the lure to pack is greater
than the urge to mate

Bedding Men In Mosses Like Exotic Native Plants

big hairy trigger-happy fuckers who like it some
short furry gun-shy fellows who kneel to come
bear-like men who stink of sin and do it with the lights on
those who trail and smile like hell and hold me all night long

guys who lie and swear I'm sweet and they never had one better
(they think I oughta settle down, sit by the fire, knit a sweater)
funny men who make me laugh or ones who are too serious
they all know what's best for me, it's really sorter curious

long-backed lads lads with narrow hips and arms that never quit
I must be quite a whore at heart, they're all a perfect fit
silent men who smell like moss and them whose nervous chatter
allows me to enjoy the other, it really doesn't matter

shrinks and priests cannot agree on what it is attracts us
and where's the one who'll make me say the rest were just for practice


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