Before I even open my eyes
I see the fish on dry rocks
where there used to be a rushing stream
now a mud puddle
in the shade, under the bridge
where the fish have gathered
Did they survive the night?
Turns out that my uncle didn’t
after fifteen years of Alzheimer’s
I wanted to say to my sister,
Dad’s probably joking with him now,
“What took you so long?”
but I didn’t
because death isn’t funny.

My friend called
her husband has an incurable cancer
but she suggested an air pump for the fish
and in the hour it took me to get to Walmart and back
the big trout, named Bill
who made it through each winter
was floating, mouth open

God forgive me.
I don’t know about fish
but I signed up
to live on the stream
brave enough
I thought
to face a flood
but never thought of this
till I scooped out twenty-seven trout
and tossed them
thump after thump
on the hot rocks further down
so the bass, still alive
wouldn’t have to share space
with the dead.