Todd Davis

Fishing for Large Mouth in a Strip-Mining Reclamation Pond near Lloydsville, Pennsylvania

Listen to Todd Davis read his piece:

The gills rake down the sides of his head, and the mouth
opens like the tunnels we used before the coal companies

hauled in dozers and trucks to scrape away the mountain
our grandparents had known.  There was honor in riding

rail cars underground, something mythic as fathers said
goodbye to their children and traveled away from the sun.

Our teachers told us the story of Sisyphus, and we understood
how a stone might roll back upon the one who pushed it.

Most of the tunnels are gone, filled in or forgotten, holes
in our memory where the black line of money vanished

like the wind that sweeps over the backside of the Alleghenies.
As penance the state made us dig out this pond in the shape

of a kidney, water the color of liver, banks covered in cattails
and loosestrife.  On the mounds of dirt that were left, goldenrod

grows in thin circles, like yellow mustard on bologna, the white
bread of cloudy skies balanced on the horizon where red oak

and hemlock should be.  Black birch is the only tree
that comes up, rises toward the sun’s lure, like a bass striking

the plastic popper my son dragged across the pond’s surface, bait
imitating a frog’s ragged dance, enticing this fish he hooked

and grips by the lower lip, both of them smiling, or grimacing,
or simply trying to hold still for the camera.


Todd Davis is the author of four books of poems, most recently The Least of These. He also edited Fast Break to Line Break: Poets on the Art of Basketball and co-edited Making Poems: Forty Poems with Commentary by the Poets. Michigan State University Press will publish his fifth book of poetry, In the Kingdom of the Ditch, in 2013.
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    Ernest O. Ògúnyẹmí