Rebecca Foust

Ars Poetica with Clickbait

I am watching what I am sure is click-bait,
a girl pulling and pulling a line 
from a hole in the ice for what seems like an hour 
but is actually only 3:20 minutes, 
and I am worried she is not wearing gloves 
but also excited to see what’s at the end of that line, 
thinking a fish, or maybe another one of those
marriage proposals looping in jet contrails 
or glowing in block letters on Diamond Vision 
or most recently, picked out in white pebbles 
on the bottom of a kettle pond in Wellfleet, 
and after a long time that seems like an hour 
but is really only minutes, the ice explodes 
into a 30-pound fish, a Great Northern Atlantic Pike, 
one long, thick sickle of muscle taut with panic 
that topples the girl before shaking the hook loose
and flopping back down into freedom. 

I’m relieved the girl still has all her fingers 
and also that it was not an ad, if at the same time 
a little disappointed not to see a ring, 
and I keep wondering if writing poetry is like that: 
a line dropped into a dark hole cut into ice, 
with the world maybe watching and maybe not 
but when it does always suspecting a scam, 
and you sitting patiently, tending the line, willing 
to risk boredom, freezing, disappointment, 
even dismemberment for the chance at a ring, 
or a great fish ancient and elusive as time 
that, nevertheless, will never impress or satisfy 
anyone as much as it impresses you—all that, 
and the chance that, having been knocked flat 
and utterly out of yourself, you might see stars—
but that’s what they say about fishing, right?
It was never about catching the fish.