Coho

My father knelt down at the river’s edge / to unhook it. He cupped it in his palms

Black and white portrait of Kayla Czaga against a green background.

Whenever I’m sad, I lift my fish book
off the shelf and let it fall open in my lap.
Today I got coho. I would’ve liked an eel
or even a smelt, but I only get one flip.
That’s the game: one feeling, one flip.
Years ago, my father and I caught a salmon
so small we assumed we’d hooked weeds—
the bell he’d clipped to the tip of his rod
barely rattled. When we finally reeled in,
there it was at the end of our line, limp
and tiny, like an infant’s filthy sock.
My father knelt down at the river’s edge
to unhook it. He cupped it in his palms
and said, “I dunno. Might not make it.”
Each syllable came out with a little cloud.
Then the fish swam away. I wish it would
let me go, this feeling, but I like its warm
hands, the way it wears my father’s face.

Kayla Czaga
Kayla Czaga is the author of the poetry collections Dunk Tank and For Your Safety Please Hold On.

Join our community

Still reading? Show your support.

The Walrus features award-winning, independent, fact-checked journalism and online events at thewalrus.ca. Our content is available to all, but as a registered charity, we can’t do this work without contributions from readers like you.

For only $5 per month, you can support the work of The Walrus online. All supporters will receive a complimentary tote bag, gain access to exclusive updates, and join the community that powers the work we do.

Be part of The Walrus.
Monthly donations receive a charitable tax receipt.