Jackfish and walleye circle like clouds as he strains
the silt floor of his pool, a lost lure in his lip,
Five of Diamonds, River Runt, Lazy Ike,
or a simple spoon, feeding
a slow disease of rust through his body’s quiet armour.
Kin to caviar, he’s an oily mudfish. Inedible.
Inedible. Ancient grunt of sea
in a warm prairie river, prehistory a third eye in his head.
He rests, and time passes as water and sand
through the long throat of him, in a hiss, as thoughts
of food. We take our guilts
to his valley and dump them in,
give him quicksilver to corrode his fins, weed killer,
gas oil mix, wrap him in poison arms.
Our bottom feeder,
sin-eater. On an afternoon mean as a hook we hauled him

up to his nightmare of us and laughed

at his ugliness, soft sucker mouth opening,

closing on air that must have felt like ground glass,

left him to die with disdain

for what we could not consume.

And when he began to heave and thrush over yards of rock

to the water’s edge and, unbelievably, in

we couldn’t hold him though we were teenaged

and bigger than everything. Could not contain

the old current he had for a mind, its pull,

and his body a muscle called river, called spawn.



Karen Solie's poetry, fiction and non-fiction have been published in Breathing Fire, The Journey Prize Anthology and many other publications. Her first collection of poems Short Haul Engine won the Dorothy Livesay Poetry prize and in 2010 she was the Canadian winner of the Griffin Poetry prize.


Toby Sharpe


I don’t know where a person can go when they disappear, apart from underwater.


Young Earle Birney in Banff: September 1913¹

what a day!at the Basin2 dove from the tufa overhanginto the water, playing my trick ofseeming to drown, not coming up until I finish wrigglingthrough that underwater chimneyand burst into air. always startles the tourists.


Zamboni Driver’s Lament

i know hate, its line-mates. believe me. you kids have, i’m sure, wasted—all early morning anxious and weak-ankled—their first impatient shuffle-kicks and curses on me.