On the Keowee

by Ron Rash

Three days searchers worked below
rock-leaps her feet had not bridged,
men trolling grabbling hooks through
suck hole and blue hole, bamboo
poles jabbing the backs of falls
before the high sheriff told
her folks there was but one way,
so Jake Poston came, his poke
bulging with a snapper’s weight,
its head a jawed fist, mossed shell
big as a washpan, fishhook
deep-barbed in the webbed back foot,
the shank’s eye knotted with line
thick as guitar string. He kicked
it off the bank, let out line
like a leash as the snapper
wandered river floor, then stopped,
and Jake just nodded, the men
wading on in. No one spoke
of the gashes in her throat,
or of why he hadn’t cut
that line afterward, had slung
thirty pounds of turtle on
his back, headed downriver
to the cabin where no wife
set his table, where no meat
yet simmered in the kettle.

from Raising the Dead
(Iris Press)
© 2002 by Ron Rash
Used by permission of the author.

Ron Rash was born and raised in North Carolina, in the southern Appalachians, where his family has lived for over 250 years. Rash holds degrees from Gardner-Webb College and Clemson University, and he now lives in Clemson, South Carolina, where he teaches English at Tri-County Technical College and is a member of the MFA faculty at Queens College in Charlotte, North Carolina. Rash has won a General Electric Young Writers Award, an NEA Fellowship in Poetry, and has been awarded the Sherwood Anderson Prize. His poetry and prose have appeared in numerous journals, including Poetry, Yale Review, Georgia Review, Oxford American, New England Review, Southern Review, and Shenandoah. He has published three books of poems, two books of stories, and has a novel forthcoming in the fall.