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Blockbuster Poem IV

This week, sympathy for the Steelhead.

Ken Belford 20 Aug

Prince George poet Ken Belford’s most recent book is decompositions, published by talonbooks. An early advocate for the nascentecology movement, he homesteaded in Northwestern B.C. in the late 1960s with his wife and daughter. For 35 years they operated a soft paths eco-tourism business there in the remote headwaters of the Nass and Skeena Rivers.

[Editor's Note: This is the fourth of 10 current Canadian 'blockbuster poems' running each Friday in The Tyee. Find out about the idea of the series and read the previous poems here]

They put me to work on shore, grabbing and landing
  the hens.
I brought fish to my lure but had no hook. It is easy
  to imagine
the steelhead among the boulders. I charmed them but
did not deceive them. I awakened their curiosity but I did
not chase them. I drew them from their hiding places
and soothed them. I brought them close so I could see them,
but I would not provoke the hen so I could hook the buck.
I would not need the techne reel and carried no gadgets.
In high water I saw them in the bush. They were love-sick
so I didn't tease them or rip their lips. Fishermen brag
about their hot hens. And they brag about their technology.
The photos degrade the fish, especially the hero shot.
Steelhead are the most vulnerable to men.
Mimicry, language and gadgets are their tools of the slaughter.
The focus is mostly on the men and their desire
and little is on the fish. The fish is just a thing but
at the same time the men seek to experience the life
of the fish. The fish experiences the hard hand of the fisher, and
just as in hate and sex crimes, apathy and empathy are there.

From lan(d)guage (Caitlin Press, 2008).

[Editor's Note: Ken's recent poems don't have titles.]  [Tyee]

Read more: Environment

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