The 2River View 25.3 (Spring 2021)

Jacob Stratman

Fishing after Church

The poisonous ones, I’ve been told, will glide
completely on top of water.  They hide

nothing, so always look closely
at their bodies, they say.  If you just see

the slick head popping up out of the creek,
you’re safe.  Its jarring, though, when sleek

cottonmouths treat water like a sidewalk,
and you’re trying to fish a little, talk

a little, after a fall rain.  What but Love
controls the elements?  What but Love

treats water and its depth with such simple
disregard? You thought you knew these answers until

you watched a snake slip easily on top
of water—slide soundlessly, with no plop

or announcement, separate from laws
you knew to trust, whose cat eyes give you pause,

whose toxins keep your warm blood from clotting,
who keeps you confused and far from saving.

Learning to kneel

The first time I stopped pledging allegiance
to the flag, my mom sang Abide with Me
and wept, the valley of death’s long shadow
returned to my dreams, on Earth as it is
in Heaven grew heavy to hold, I fell
deep in love with the expanse of language.
Placing my right hand still over my heart,
swearing all my loyalty to a flag
didn’t ring true, beautiful, as slipping
down the street to the creek, to the sweet spot
under the bridge, next to the wide weeping
willow’s shade, where we’d all meet to skip rocks
or wade in bare feet looking for crawdads
and wonder around in God’s solitude.

Jacob Stratman is the author of What I Have I Offer With Two Hands (Poiema Poetry Series, (Cascade 2019). New poems are forthcoming in Salt Hill, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Christian Century, and elsewhere.

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