Night Fishing

by Kathryn Stripling Byer

I bait my lines
with the scent of old planks
rotting over the Tuckasegee
River where drowsy snakes
coil in the rushes and lightning
bugs fizzle like spirits
of nightcrawlers nibbled
by minnows. No catch
in my throat but this aching
to wade into lazy black water
and stand all night long
in its leavetaking, calling
the fish home to Mama.

KATHRYN STRIPLING BYER’s poetry, prose, and fiction have appeared widely, including Hudson Review, Poetry, The Atlantic, Georgia Review, Shenandoah, and Southern Poetry Review. Often anthologized, her work has also been featured online, where she maintains the blogs “Here, Where I Am,” and “The Mountain Woman.” Her first book of poetry, The Girl in the Midst of the Harvest, was published in the AWP Award Series in 1986, followed by the Lamont (now Laughlin) prize-winning Wildwood Flower, from LSU Press. Her subsequent collections have been published in the LSU Press Poetry Series. She served for five years as North Carolina’s first woman poet laureate.