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SHORELINE / Sidney Bums' Mid-May, and for one, sometimes two days, the carp spawned in a dun pond beyond the state line. There was no telling when the first rutting bull fish would stir topwater, but one morning the dogwoods had dropped their flowers and the white petals flecked the dank sod on the edge of the sinkhole when we woke up and found the water chocked from the mouth of the feeder stream to the dam with thick-lipped carp circling in tight patterns as fine as scrimshaw carving. We strung the bow and feathered the canoe toward the alder bush that hung like a canopy over the bedding fish. The heavy ones would rush the mud flats, erupt, and roll belly-up with bloated smears of roe full in the air. A broad rafter of bone divides to house their vacant ocher eyes. We carried the gaffed fish with thumb and middle finger hooked in the numb sockets to a box fed by a spring. The water here was thin and clean as vinegar, and the quick chill closed the wounds before a live fungus set in. Fully revived, the fish were hard to handle. We swaddled the big one in a croaker sack and hauled it back, twenty-four pounds dead weight, but before we reached the shore, the carp flexed with unexpected force. The viscid muscle humped and thudded dully like a butcher's fist pounding a flank of fresh beef; the nausea of exposure heaved the fish into the dry leaves, and as we fell on her, pinned her, globules of orange roe frothed at her tail and bobbed in dormant clutches; we scooped handfuls of the mass, not warm, but palpitating like warm jam, and turned again to the shore, both of one mind: The Missouri Review · 75 we waded out knee-deep and determined in a child-like way to repair the loss, but the mud floor dropped like a staircase, and as we fanned our arms to swim, we broadcast the orange eggs in an underwater arc; scattered like pearls from a broken necklace, the festered spawn sifted down to seed the rotted lake bottom, a cache of excretions reducing, as its generation demands, spikes of cattail, pier pilings, razor molluscs, and even an occasional penetration of daylight, all, in spite of it all, to a mother lode of peat, or just darkness. 76 · The Missouri Review Sidney Burns ...


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