if only his eyes had not looked

back at me ~ so wild and shocked

the first fish I caught as a child


dragging him out from

his brackish river world

into the painful one of ours

as air burned through his heaving gills

spasmodically flipping in

the net interwoven with slabs

of raw bacon


I can still smell it now

the pungent odor of him

mixed with slime bait

the scent of his fear

once the jerking stopped

when he accepted his death

which he forgave me for


but for which I couldn’t forgive myself

for feeling the soft jelly of that dead

liquid eye with child-curious fingers….


my first taste of death

and I spun and limped away,

                    spitting out the sadness.


© Susan Joyner-Stumpf

  1. Tom Williams says:

    WOW!!!! That brought back some memories. Very well said.

  2. Thanks Tom. I will never forget it. I think I was five years old. Loving nature and wildlife like I do, it was very hard to watch it suffering. To this day, I might go fishing with family or friends just to be near the water, for I love the outdoors, but when I catch something, much to the chagrin of others, I throw it back in the water (when nobody’s looking).

  3. drtruthman says:

    Well Susan, I have been on both sides. Having grown up in FL, I too love the water, rivers, lakes, canals and as we call them in Deep S. Texas, aroyos. I love fishing and I love to both catch and release and catch and eat. I too, however, remember the trauma of my first catch and realized the poor little brim was still alive and dying and then…oh then when I learned the evil truth of having to finish the poor fish off with a knife right then and there. Yes it was a shock. I was about 7 and I remember yelling and telling my Dad how bad it was. But then he made it all better as we caught so guppies and took them home and put them in a fish tank. My dad taught me about the cycle of life. Oh the memories of childhood. Great job Susan. Beautifully done.

  4. Lee, I totally understand. I read somewhere in the Bible where the Lord says we have dominion over the livestock (bovine, etc. for meat) and the fish in the Sea. For wasn’t it Jesus on the Mount who fed the masses fish and bread, and it was a miracle, because where did it all come from? So, I know there are hunters and fishermen out there for sport and I don’t get upset over that because most of them eat what they kill….at least it doens’t go to waste and we do need sustenance. So, this poem was not meant to offend anyone who fishes or hunts, LOL. No, this was just a true biographical story Poem on my first “catch of the day” when I was five years old so to speak and how I felt, being sensitive to the death of another lifeform, which remains to this day. But I guess i’m a hypocrit? because I love the Red Lobster’s Surf & Turf Specials, LOL. I just don’t like to be the one to go out and catch my dinner. I never would have made it as a Neanderthal Woman or an Eskimo.

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