She appears of a morning sudden
each brittle early autumn with
October just becoming ragged; away
but returned to country to assert
as absolute her right of harvest.
a bloated black pearl with a saffron tiara
arrayed with little pomp between
nodding, pliant racemes of Solidago
a thread-throned queen in goldenrod
the ebony of her waiting suspended
like a jeweled obsidian dewdrop from
the arching, nighttime scaffold of her legs
and her pike-footed purchase of dew-
glittered radii, afloat on the filament vantage
of an undulating great room floor.
Resplendent, briefly, but with each offering
she comes in a relentless rush, pinfooting
like a twilight avalanche
and when the meadow has made its tithe for days
the floor is grown cluttered and tatty
like an over-furnished, moldering room
draped over for the coming winter.
Her consort, a king in name, a tenth
the size and maybe smaller, watches
sidewise at the edge of silk, crouches rigid
timorous and tense, a chitinous afterthought
with a dab of color.
As autumn deepens, lesser crops
are eschewed for larger meat: preyed upon
mantises, once bulb-eyed and stilting
green and angle-plated, now smooth
and elliptical, white and hammock-slung.
They trampled miniature worlds in early morning
splay-legged raiders stalking the stem tops
frantic ahead of them
a prow-wake scattering of life, but now
slow netted pirouettes
breeze danced and downward, submissive
in their dusty finery.
Autumn narrows to a stipple of purple asters
and browning blades of bluestem
and she abides as the field goes cool and sluggish
ever more quiescent, waiting
on noontime sun
accepting what is given, but
acknowledging no obeisance.
My father took me fishing summers
in a dented silver rowboat
and we bottom-rigged for bullhead
with worms on Cedar Lake.
He would pull and creak the locks
and I would twist and lean and peer
beside the rasping bow that creased
the open pads of lily and lotus, above
arthritic stems gnarling away the light
and I wanted to climb them down like Jack
Pull myself toward leviathan
shadows nosing the lakebed past
slanted hulks of broken boats
half astern in mud.
At anchor, the leaden teardrop sinker cored
the water's slab, dingy with suspended murk
poplar fluff and flaccid husks of damsel flies
then burrowed through the fleshy stems
of Elodia and coontail, found the pliant floor
and footed hard
the crawler, pierced, self-braiding
to a turgid knot, pulsing
in an unseen plume of silt, imagined all
as if the sinker was a scoping camera
threaded on a slender flexing wire.
He taught me to cast and wait and how
a calloused leather work glove shielded
hands and fingers from
the mudcat's painful spines
and how rusted needle pliers disgorged
a swallowed hook, which they did often
inhaling with their wide, disconsolate mouths
not so much a strike as stealing and trying
to carry an air bubble unbroken, and you might
miss it altogether if you were nodding
the filament line barely splicing
the lazy, green-shot surface
becoming slowly implacable as
the rod-tip finally bent and then
they would go heavy with the dimness
as there might yet be some deep brute beneath
a creature sea-born, out of place and past its time
and only for me
because the waters of the world hide
their worlds from all of us personally, each
according to a need, and from children
most of all.
Easing them, so weighty and impassive
up the dark was an act not of muscle and sight
but of invisibility not yet failed
before the barbels and the saddened snout
emerged like everything I did not yet know
but still wanted to.
Greg Schmult lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he works as an environmental consultant. His poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Hanging Loose, Iodine, Poetry Quarterly, Spillway, and The Main Street Rag.