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.

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Black and white photo of Lauren Tamaki"My latest work for The Walrus was a portrait that accompanied a review of Sheila Heti's new book, Pure Color. I love collaborating with the art directors at The Walrus because I always know the result will be spectacular." - Lauren Tamaki

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