Male/Female

Male/Female

Male/Female

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A weekly poem, read by the author.
April 29 1999 3:30 AM

Male/Female

To hear Patricia Clark read "Male/Female," click here.

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He would cut into the belly
of one, at the kitchen
sink, Mother squabbling
in the background, and he'd be
up to his elbows in silver,
blood shining from the knife,
the room smelling of sweat,
boots, coffee, smoke, and though
I'd been at home,
in bed the whole time, I could
see the Puyallup River, the herons
rising, cattails and redwing
blackbirds with their bottlebrush
shapes and streaks of color,
from shore to shore a thick fog,
but rolling up and off like smoke, a reel
singing as the steelhead ran
with the line, the hurry, the thrash
and splashing, feet stumbling
along the shore to keep up,
to keep the line from getting cut.
Surely this was a victory for them,
Father saying it's a female, then
he's pulled out the whole orange clump
to show my brothers.
Yes, he is saying, we'll use the roe
as our next bait
, and How about
Saturday, early?
He holds them up
in front of the window, though I was never
actually there to see it, scales smeared
on the faucet, on the hump between
the two sinks, his forearms
all silver and orange on fire. The guts
and severed head lay in a mass on
papertowels. Light glinted thick
through the raised orange
globes. Yes, good thing this was a female.

Patricia Clark is the author of North of Wondering (1999). She teaches at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, where she is also the university's poet-in-residence.