Jonathan Cant – Trout Therapy

Cant LE P&W August 2023

Download PDF Here
Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Special Australian Edition August 2023

Trout Therapy, poems by Jonathan Cant.

Trout Therapy

No man ever steps in the same river twice…—Heraclitus

 A FISHERMAN stalks the gin-
   clear mountain stream. Dancing
riffles make river music. Soothing
sounds like Wes Montgomery’s
   smooth jazz octaves. Smoke rises
from his cigarette to mingle lazily
with fireplace smoke among late
   autumn, amber leaves. Leaden
clouds creep across the sky
leaving an early dusting
   of fine, white powder. He tries
to remember to forget
unhelpful thoughts. And yet, he lifts
   a silver hip flask to his lips
then sips the warming spirit. Is it
the Angel’s Share or the Devil’s
   Cut? In his High Country home,
the bellbirds toll—but for whom?
He ties a fly to the slender line.
   Underfoot, the riverbed rocks are
slippery like ice on a country road.
Then, splash! Around the bend,
   a trout rises—and with it, hope.

Now he’s chasing rainbows.

Wishing Underwater

after a line from Cargo by Ada Limón
and a poem title by Mark Tredinnick

I wish I could write to you from underwater.
I’d try to describe what I’m seeing down here,
In the lagoon, at Lord Howe Island—where I snorkel

Inside the rusted and coral-encrusted steel freezer room.
All that remains of a sunken, American tuna boat named
“Favorite”. (I picture Pablo Neruda trawling the seafood

Market for fresh images.) Now I’m the intruder in this
Palace of Fish. Once their dark and frozen prison.
Today it’s lit by sunbeams like Broadway lights

On opening nights. The star, a Painted Cray, walks and stalks
The sandy sea floor: a multicoloured Mars Rover searching
For signs of life—and prey. The Yellowfin—no longer dead

Cargo—free to swim on in through this ruined cathedral
Of a vanquished god. Nature won out here,
Though I’m pretty sure She wouldn’t see it as “winning”.

Nature just… is. She may be unaware of Her artistry, too.
The Pantone perfection of this shoal of Three-banded
Butterflyfish who socialise and hover in their new

Favourite haunt, all dressed in vertical stripes of yellow, black,
And white. Yeah, you’d love their vibrant colours. The pouting
Spotted Sweetlip is not caught, she holds court, surrounded

By rainbow-splashed species like Moon, Surge, and Cleaner Wrasse.
A lone Galapagos Shark seems a long way from home,
But I am the alien here in this silent water world. I am drifting—

A ghost in the making. My snorkel pierces the sea’s surface and
Mimics the ship’s exhaust pipes that protrude at low tide.
All I can hear is my own regulated breath travelling through

A plastic chimney, the sound: a steady metronome keeping Life’s
Beat alive. For now. And we know how that can change in an instance.
How can I do justice to the Life down here, in the lagoon, at Lord Howe?

I wish I could impart the beauty and feeling to you for real.
Yeah Dad, I wish I could write to you from underwater.
I wish I could write to you.

I wish I could write.
I wish I could.
I wish.

The Golden Season after “April 18”:

A future was lost yesterday as easily and irretrievably
as a tennis ball at twilight.
—Sylvia Plath

AUTUMN is a friend. It has its pastimes and likes to contemplate. It’s also a
time to fossick for ideas and images from the past, from the future
or from Nature. With a shovel, I dig the earth for rare gems. I am (always was)
sieving soil: sifting, reducing, distilling. Finding myself lost
in thought. Seeking the hidden, spiritual paydirt that might bury yesterday.

Immersed midstream in life, I find myself chasing trout in the afternoon as
a form of meditation (medication, too). Nothing fine comes easily:
this, the fly teaches you. So I keep casting for a connection on the line, for truth and
intelligent responses from the wild—even if, at times, my fly gets irretrievably
snagged in the branches of snow gums downstream. I must keep at it—as

Browning said: A man’s reach should exceed his grasp. Or what’s a
heaven for? I, too, reach as I grasp the handle of the landing net: a strange tennis
racket designed by Dali to scoop up the terrible fish of mortality rather than a ball
or party or some other youthful celebration. And yet, I draw pleasure and comfort at
this autumnal time—bathed in the soft, amber glow of the Golden Hour. Twilight.

Note: Terrible fish is a reference to the poem “Mirror” by Sylvia Plath

© Jonathan Cant

Jonathan Cant is a Sydney-based writer, poet, and musician. He won the 2023 Banjo Paterson Writing Awards for Contemporary Poetry, was Longlisted for the 2023 Fish Poetry Prize, and the 2022 Flying Islands Poetry Manuscript Prize, Commended in the W. B. Yeats Poetry Prize, Highly Commended in the South Coast Writers Centre Poetry Awards, and selected for the Ros Spencer Anthology Brushstrokes III. Jonathan’s poems have appeared in Cordite Poetry Review, Wingless Dreamer, and Beyond Words Literary Magazine. His short stories have featured in publications as diverse as Playboy to Australia’s leading flyfishing magazine, FlyLife.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.