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Five Laws of Fish: A poetic response to the 2017 Five Point Film Festival

Locations: Columns Published

By Cameron Scott
Special to the Sopris Sun

First Law of Fish

Fish in the river shall remain in the river unless

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acted upon by an outside force. Force of nature.

Failure of dam. Flood. Famine. Kingfishers.

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Fortune favors the bold, but bold fish find hooks

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driven home. Talons in back, flopping through sky.

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Cold fish, warm fish, cod fish, fried fish, god fish.

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Fish, an object of affection and will remain

so over time, in shapes and symbols which

alter in sunlight and shade. To fish or not to

fish is no longer a question, but a modifier.

Yes, today. Yes, tomorrow. Forever, yes. Fish.

Second Law of Fish

When entering a fly shop, enter slowly with arms down

and palms facing forward. Do not make any sudden movements

or fire random questions at employees behind the counter.

Friend, you have three questions, choose them carefully

and do not waste them jumping down the rabbit hole of fish

you caught one time or where you have been or how full

of prowess and stealth you are. When your lips move

do not face forward like a Sphinx or Cheshire Cat. Though

you may be like Alice in Wonderland at the sight of row

upon row of rods and bin upon bin of flies, listen carefully

to what is said and left unsaid. Even if you do not understand,

listen carefully, for time is a river, and once on the river

you shall unfasten yourself from time. Where have you

gone? What are you? If you drink of the Kool-Aid

you might feel bigger or smaller, but trust what others see

as you are the same size as everyone else. I repeat,

you are the same size as everyone else and so do not think

your head will break through the ceiling or you must wrestle

with each size 24 midge for your very life. Just smile pleasantly

as you will be asked what you need, and given more than

what you think you will need. There is no wanting when you cross

the threshold, for you are entering a fly shop, and it should be

as entering gates of pearl and whalebone. Before you,

three questions. Beyond you, the heaven of moving water.

Third Law of Fish

In heavy crowd, or empty street, in pitch and floe of each rotation

of earth, of earth round sun, of sun in spiral and swirl

of which be unafraid to show up to, and love which never dies

a natural death, and the living which go on how and in the peculiar

ways they want. To be wrapped up in the very essence of it —

this thing in front of our noses so close we cannot see except for

looking over vast distances; mountain tops, airplane windows,

the edge of sea. Find what you love and let it kill you

in minutes and hours and days and weeks and years.

If you are so lucky as to be unafraid of living, let love be the thing

on which you spend your breaths, and money the thing

you spend on love, and love be how you stay alive

after you have caught your final fish, and folded in, and slipped

away. Let love be how you stay alive when you are gone.

Fourth Law of Fish

When the road before you is cast in darkness

and sky is thick with clouds, wait for a break of car

light or starlight or the soft rich glaze of moon.

And if the river that carries us carries us far past dusk

but the river is comfortable as a wide gravel path

carry on. If it is by feel and feel alone we cast

out into the sound of rising fish. If it is by touch

we must set the hook and be led by fish instead

of leading. If it is by sound we navigate the depth

and stroke of oars, then listen and row.  In the end

this life is more a surrendering to the things we love

than a conquering. Fish are better shared than caught

and eaten alone. Where each fish is a way of speaking

without words. Where each river we choose to fish

chose us instead, and words fall in tumbling liquid light.

Fifth Law of Fish

A blind man and an armless man have planted a forest

in China. Two men paralyzed from the armpits down

and one man from the waist, set sail up the northwest

coast in a race they know they won’t win.  A woman

trapped on the side of a mountain in Kurdistan

for ten days sits in a bivouac as armed men take shots

from below. A woman from the slums of Bangladesh

climbs the highest mountains of all seven continents.

And you, what have you done? Written another poem

about fish.

Your lifestyle centered around fish is familiar as breathing.

Your job is fish. Whether you give someone a fish or

teach them how to fish, your job remains the same. It is

not to make value judgements about whether someone

deserves a fish. It is not to criticize them for not knowing

how to properly wade in a river or row a boat or cast

a sad net over a pair of oceanic eyes. And it is certainly not

to stand around puffed up like a bird debating the relative

efficacy of fish charity vs. fish education while someone  

goes hungry.

For as much as some days you would deny it, you are

part of a devastatingly human family. You fight with fists

of emails and phone calls demanding progress or a stay

against regress. You march. You pray. You protest. In

southern Wyoming after heating a can of chili and frying

sausages over coals you fall asleep in the back of your dusty

car. One friend falls asleep in the bed of a pickup. Another

in the cab. Someone under the boat trailer. You are a first

stanza and a last stanza, boots and waders forever wet,

fingers forever cracked, but your job is the middle stanza.

Your job is fish.

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