Don’t Get Caught

The catfish and the trout hum different tunes,
But both agree they love hot afternoons
When no one wants to fish, when ponds and streams
And rivers generate aquatic dreams
That never end, and surely never end
With either one, as evening shades descend,
Dead-center on a chintzy china plate.

Forgive them, for they knew not what they ate
Does not come close to what the attitude
Of creatures used exclusively for food
Could ever be, and even those that live
In water are reluctant to forgive
The impositions smarter carnivores
Subject them to behind closed kitchen doors.

The existential landscape of a panfish
Is filled with dire vicissitudes and anguish.

First published in Hidden Oak



“…over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air…” —Genesis: 1:28

Although kinetic pulses of the brook
Have long since driven every grain of silt
To estuaries many miles downstream,
In highland eddies motile clouds of milt
Suffuse the water, filling every nook
Between the fixed and constant stones. A dream

As yet undreamt inhabits gravel beds
Where soft translucent eggs are fertilized
Haphazardly; though safety in their numbers
Obtains, no trout has ever agonized
For offspring flushed from alpine watersheds.
A rudiment of self-awareness slumbers

Within the ancient sub-reptilian brain
Of every fish, but instincts aren’t emotions,
And programmed actions don’t equate with thought.
It’s said that Life was kindled in the oceans,
Perhaps abetted by a cosmic rain
Of crude amino acids random-wrought

In interstellar spume. Whatever be
The case, a bony lotic denizen
Shall thrive on insects, winged adult or larval
Embodiments, as if a benison
Had been incanted from that primal sea
In eons past; but much the greater marvel

It is to craft an artificial fly
From thread and bits of feather, to create
A pattern of successive mortal crises
In older species. Mankind was a late
Arrival, from a realm beyond the sky,
Predestined to subdue the House of Pisces.



C.B. Anderson was the longtime gardener for the PBS television series, The Victory Garden.  Hundreds of his poems have appeared in scores of print and electronic journals out of North America, Great Britain, Ireland, Austria, Australia and India.  His collection, Mortal Soup and the Blue Yonder was published in 2013 by White Violet Press.

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28 Responses

    • Peter Hartley

      Both poems extremely well done, especially the first, favourite bit being the extremely cheeky rhyme of panfish with anguish which couldn’t fail to raise a titter; and in the second poem the highland eddies with their motile clouds of milt. A history of the universe, or a theory of it, in a few lines- VG.

      • C.B. Anderson

        Yes, Peter, just a theory, and one that is probably out of fashion with cosmologists. The rhyme you mention is odd because the perfect rhyme falls on the unstressed syllable (sometimes called a falling rhyme) and the stressed syllables only assonate.

    • C.B. Anderson


      GOR? I’m not familiar with that shorthand expression. And sadly, I haven’t gone fishing in many a year.

  1. Mike Bryant

    Both poems take me on a winding trip through history. Your creative use of words is thoroughly entertaining as well. Even though I am definitely no angler, I do appreciate the art of it… on a plate. Thanks for the journey.

    • C.B. Anderson


      Don’t get caught! The vegans are coming. And I don’t mean extraterrestrials from a planet revolving around Vega.

      • Mike Bryant

        Yes… I’ll make damn sure I’m not on anyone’s plate! (vegan or otherwise)

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    Both are amazingly good poems, but “Mainstream” (a brilliantly double-edged title!) is a wonderful example of the philosophically meditative poem that starts with something small — fish protoplasm in streams — and rises in a building crescendo to a vision of Mankind as the summit of all creation. The last line (how we have “subdued the House of Pisces”) is strikingly unexpected, both as a rhyme and a concept.

    And thank God somebody still knows his Greek plurals!

    • C.B. Anderson


      Are you referring to “crises?” Sadly, I know nothing of Greek plurals, but I’m pretty good with proper English plurals. I can almost remember the satisfaction and the joy of finding a rhyme for Pisces. And yes, Mankind as the crown of creation was in my mind the whole way. I’ll change my perspective when, but not until, some archaeologist discovers a Decalogue written in stone that was given to some wandering tribe of birds or fish.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Yes, to be sure. All Greek nouns borrowed into English that end in -is (crisis, basis, thesis, synthesis) take their plural in -es.

  3. Jared Carter

    Amen to all of the above. In these two brilliant poems we note once again that Mr. Anderson writes enchanting poems, and that he is a master in his handling of the enjambed lines that thread their way through such poems.

    • C.B. Anderson


      I thank you for your kind words. As for enjambment, I don’t know how to do it any other way, and the very possibility it provides for otherwise unattainable end rhymes makes enjambment a very useful tool.

  4. Peter Hartley

    CBA – yes, as you say, part of a minced oath of the sort that might well suit those fond of archaisms, other examples being gor blimey (God blind me), zounds (God’s wounds), gadzooks (God’s hooks), strewth ([God]’s truth) and my favourite: ‘sfoot.

  5. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    What’s not to like. The titles are spot on – clickbait (ouch) for someone who doesn’t appreciate fishing, but is mesmerized by delicious fishing imagery. Both poems paint an inspirational picture for any poetry loving pescatarian (me!!). I also appreciate the end rhymes – a masterclass in avoiding end-rhyme cliché.

  6. James A. Tweedie

    Well done, CB.

    As a High Sierra catch-and-release fly fisherman (usually 7,000-10,000 feet) who has not kept a fish in over 30 years, I appreciate these poems very much, in particular, your boffo Pisces line and the final stanza of Mainstream where you manage to conflate fly-tying with humanity’s dominion over creation. As Susan puts it, “What’s not to like?”

    • C.B. Anderson


      There’s a difference between fishing an catching, as you must well know. But I can scarcely imagine not eating something I’ve caught — if the waters are uncontaminated. When I lived in a river valley in the mountains of Arizona I often went after trout. As it happened, there were expanses of watercress growing near our abode, and the two together made for a rather fine meal.

  7. C.B. Anderson


    If one wishes to employ the device of end rhyme, then it is usually best to avoid such things as breeze/trees, thunder/wonder, earth/birth, fish/dish, and the like unless they are used in a distinctively fresh way.

      • James A. Tweedie

        I fully agree, but then again . . .

        Shakespeare, Love’s Labour Lost, IV. 2

        All ignorant that soul that sees thee without wonder;
        Which is to me some praise, that I thy parts admire:
        Thine eye Jove’s lightning seems, thy voice his dreadful thunder,
        Which, not to anger bent, is music and sweet fire.

  8. James A. Tweedie

    And even such mundane and seemingly trite rhymes can, with a bit of creativity, be redeemed for a good effect, as in this excerpt:

    The day unseasonably warm
    The sunset dull as steel in blue and black
    Yet none imagined such a storm
    Would fall upon the coast that winter night.

    As sudden as a giant’s sneeze
    What once had been a gentle, zephyred breeze
    Exploded through the old-growth trees
    And snapped them, dead and dying, at their knees.

    (Although, as I mentioned earlier, “crises” and “Pisces” is. by far, more fresh and original!)

  9. Joseph S. Salemi

    Finding rhymes for the signs of the zodiac can be troublesome. Here are a few possibilities:

    Aquarius – various, nefarious
    Taurus – bore us, floor us, chorus
    Virgo – ergo, her go
    Cancer – dancer, entrancer, chance her
    Leo – brio, trio
    Aries – fairies, /beware, he’s/, Mary’s
    Libra- zebra

    If one could get perfect rhymes for all twelve, it would be excellent material for a comic poem in twelve couplets.

    • C.B. Anderson


      As Aquarius goes, so goes Sagittarius. Some others are left, including Scorpio, Capricorn and a few more. It sounds like a good project, but it’s one I would rather decline, if only because past friends of mine, to their detriment, were heavily invested in the pseudo-science of astrology. What’s left in your proposed project are Scorpio, Capricorn, and a few others. An inventive poet might well discover the apposite required rhymes, but to what end?!

      Good critics have discovered that there’s shit
      Enough already; do not add to it.

      I might change my mind, so don’t be surprised if I do. I’m sure that someone else will undertake the challenge before I ever get to it, and muck it up royally. This is perfectly normal.

  10. David Watt

    Exceedingly well done C.B. There is a richness of language evident in each poem, and your trademark enjambment in “Mainstream” maintains a smooth flow between stanzas.

    There is nothing as delicious as a fish caught fresh from the water.

    • C.B. Anderson


      I think a tree-ripened fresh fig might taste just as good.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        My paternal grandfather, God rest his soul, had several fig trees in his garden. You could just reach off the balcony and pick them. I’ll never forget the delicious, moist sweetness of the first freshly picked fig that he plucked and gave me when I was a small child.

  11. Monty

    High-class stuff, CB, and as David Watt asserted: a “richness of language” pervades both pieces. The first I found to be novel, clever, and funny all at the same time; and I particularly admire the discipline you spent in rendering the whole poem into just three sentences.

    With the second . . as well as the novel subject-matter, it was a pleasant surprise to find the change of direction in the last three lines. ‘Twas also pleasing to note some gorgeous turns-of-phrase, such as: “motile clouds of milt suffuse the water”.. “a dream as yet undreamt”.. “a rudiment of self-awareness slumbers within”.. “random-wrought in interstellar spume”.. and my clear favourite: “but instincts aren’t emotions, and programmed actions don’t equate with thought” . . top of the range!

    Call me awkward if you wish: but I don’t feel that I can sign-off without reminding you that there are many – albeit only a minority, unfortunately – who would disagree with your notion that Man came “from a realm beyond the sky”.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Opinions vary, Monty. But where have you been all these past months?

      • Monty

        I got banned from the SCP in the spring of last year, CB. It was no secret that the Society’s moderator had a longstanding dislike of me, and he used his position to start deleting some of my comments at the time; and when I pulled him up on it, he ran to the president saying I was abusing him. The president subsequently told me that he had no choice but to ban me, unless I issued an apology to the moderator . . which I refused to do.

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