box of lures

our fingers smelled like rubber & fish oil
as we laid his lures out on the carpet.
we were eight years old & both had
soft hamburger-bun faces.
green wriggling creatures
& smaller wide-eyed fish:
their bodies brandishing clean sliver hooks.
he told me he’d never gone fishing before
but that his father let him play with the lures.
i held one in each hand & closed my eyes,
said i was waiting for a great sky fish
to take the bait. we found coarse craft string
& dangled the lures out his bedroom window
trying to catch fathers or fish.
the river knocked on the bedroom door
& asked for our palms. we opened them
& it placed there little tiny humans.
not dolls, but miniatures of ourselves.
pink & soft & still. i sympathize with fish —
how they bite down expecting flesh
& receive wire & plastic but
cannot let go of that mistake. we too have been
ripped from where we used to breathe.
we caught nothing that day but one bird
swooped past his lure. we mused about
what we might do with a cardinal in the house.
in another room his parents ate hard boiled eggs
& took off their socks. the hard wood floors
were cold & wobbly. fish were all around.
in the mirrors & the windows & between
our teeth but always just out of grasp.
never pinned down. we put the lures back
& i asked, “can i keep one.”
he said, “no i need them all.”
so i slipped on in my pocket &
carried it with me
in case of future fish.

Robin Gow is a queer and trans poet from rural Pennsylvania. They are the author of Our Lady of Perpetual Degeneracy and the chapbook Honeysuckle. Their first YA book, A Million Quiet Revolutions, is forthcoming 2022 and their first essay collection, Blue Blood, is forthcoming summer 2021. More: