Under a Montana sky, blue-black with smoke from August fires,
the weight of my line unspools, pushing away from the fly rod

in cursive loops. Where the water calms, the cliffside shimmers
in the creek’s mirror, looking back at itself while asking

what is artifice, what is real. That’s how it feels to make a poem 
out of the movement of water and fish: a cutthroat pierces the riffle, 

rips the fly down into the current. I want language to curve 
into a question, like the shape the rod takes as it allows the trout 

to play out aggression, our fear of lost freedom. Line buzzes 
as it’s stripped from the reel, running over stone-rubble where 

with each hard rain, or the torrent of snowmelt in spring, the course 
of water is changed. When a trout leaps, unmoored by air, it can spit 

the hook, unraveling meaning and remaking the time spent reading 
the flow, determining which flies have hatched. Thankfully, one glides 

into the net, as I search for the words to help remove the flattened barb 
from memory’s sharp-toothed jaw.