May 20, 6:00-7:00 p.m. Sun going down

These cloverleafs soaked with spring run-off,
marsh and meadow overrun, land leaking westward,
water drawn down to Lake Champlain: The big river

bulges mud-brown into wetlands so flooded Sand Bar State Park –
its campsites, cook-grills, AV hitches, stone restroom – is underwater,
three feet under, driftwood, dead fish, dolls, and a few floating

buoys, all bumping up against the dikes and sandbags keeping
Route 2 open, from mainland to island, open to a corridor
of anglers riding westward toward their appointment with

fishing rigs casting long lines out to whatever will be tricked
by a spinner on a hook or will struggle with desire to tear open
its mouth, fly off the hook, or die trying. And charity is a bell

ringing in the supper hour, the weekly church fish-fry. Charity is a melody
in a bird’s throat at sunset, laughter of woodpeckers, last chatter of
mallards before nightfall – Now, the wheel wobbles untrue, untrue,

flattening in twilight. And charity is a spare that will spare us the night broken down.


John D, former side-judge of South Hero, former commissioner of Fish & Wildlife, loved to stock
the lake, loved to ante up for poker, loved to stack the deck in his favor –
the world is your cow, but you have to do the milking

and that led, for years, to a fixed business of eel-fishing (with a
Scotch reel) on Lake Champlain, night-trawling with flood-lights for the snaky suckers
worrying the deep. Like any penitent, they’d swim toward the light, let themselves be netted by a

fisherman who claimed the lake for himself (secret Loch), the sole boat floating over those waters
in the darkness, shining a light, hauling up eels like dead souls, dredging for snakes
that had evaded the first punishments of God and crawled waterward.

John gathered what he could, preserved what he could (in ice), drove
what he could to the border where America is most porous, going northward, where
someone must have let him pass, passport at the airport for a transport plane to France, where eels

fetched the highest price from those Catholic Parisians and John sat down to meals that seemed
paradisiacal. For a while, his was the hagiography, the story of a man who cleaned
Champlain of eels, a tale involving light and its deceptions.