PRESENCE by Bill Vernon



I’m not even fishing, just standing on the bank of the Little Miami River, and the flowing seems to pour through me. It’s as if the future lies downstream and all I have to do is look there to see it. My eyes are like spools from which the lines of my being arc out, unwinding to catch on the surface, then slowly sink, gleaming like lasers cutting through the murk, spreading a light net over the deep. I’m so close the smell of the water seems to rise up from inside the earth.

Without thinking I reel in to see if I’ve caught anything. Often it’s nothing, my hooks return empty. Often they snag on something so heavy I have to cut them loose. Sometimes the lines snap when whatever it is pulls away. But sometimes my hooks return something that never breaks free.

So I think of that catching as if fishing’s the purpose we all have. If we can hook the large mouth, we are connecting our soft hands to the teeth of animal instinct, something so deep in our selves we can sense but not understand it. To jerk the pole and set the hook means to resist the muscled, invisible currents. When I sweep my rod tip overhead, the curving pole makes a black C against the blue and white sky.

Immediately, I start directing that distant, hard impulse without snapping my line. It’s a struggle of course to succeed. My wrist trembles, trying to tire the blind panic I fight, my left hand gripping the rod handle tightly, my right reeling in. A fight to the finish I want can take a long time, but when that deep dweller flops to the surface, I’ll drag it ashore backing up, lift it in triumph, claim it forever as mine.

So my dream ends facing the current I’m caught in, kneeling in the river’s presence, silently holding a catch I often embrace and always release. I have no other choice. Keeping it is impossible. I have time on my hands but not in them.


—”Presence,” Thin Air Vol. 20.


Bill Vernon served in the United States Marine Corps, then studied English literature in Ohio universities and taught it. Writing is his therapy, along with exercising outdoors and doing international folkdances. His poems, stories and nonfiction have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, and Five Star Mysteries published his novel OLD TOWN in 2005.