I winced, watching dad’s thick fingers
thread the twisting worm, spearing
its body three times on the barbed hook,
worm thrashing with each firm poke.

“To hold it tight and close to the line,”
he explained, his teaching-voice breaking
the quiet over the lake. I listened
with repulsed reverence, clutching

the soil-filled sour cream container,
waiting for the worm to stop writhing.
It never did. “Now you,” he nudged.
I dipped fingers into nightcrawler stew,

plucked a lively, fat-bodied victim,
stunned by the chill on its delicate skin,
the vigor of its defiant squirm,
as if it guessed its narrow fate.

Dad watched, in mentor mode, urging
my initiation in this ritual
of annelid pain, sacrifice to our father-
and-son moment. He furrowed his brow

at my hesitance, as I dropped and recovered
the bait under his gaze, wretchedly
pierced the living flesh
once, twice, thrice,

noticing how the barb pinned the worm
in place. Dad smiled, pleased to share secrets
of manly mastery, like his father to him,
an unbroken chain. I swallowed hard,

basking in his love, holding my gut,
watching sunlight ripple on the surface of the lake.

Alfred Fournier is an entomologist by day, writer and community volunteer by night, in Phoenix, Arizona. His poetry and prose have appeared in Welter, Third Wednesday, The Main Street Rag, Lunch Ticket, The Ocotillo Review and elsewhere. New work is forthcoming at Amethyst Review, Hole-in-the-Head Review and The Perch Magazine

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