“Lonni Little River” by Mike Catalano

Mike Catalano


He could fish before he walked;
and he was more attuned to the speech
of Sockeye salmon than any human.
It surprised no Athabaskan
that his fish were hooked
before bait spanked the white rapids.
When he became one with the water
without ripple or bubble,
he petrified himself like a totem
and speared the most unruly Cohoe.
But the legend of Lonni Little River,
long after his death,
came when he snagged fish
with one hand. Some say he trained
his hand hours a day playing a game
akin to jacks. Some say he plucked a bee
from a grizzly’s paw, becoming the bear
with all its instincts.
I say he kissed the land, the water,
and all therein, never wasting his spirit,
long drained by settlers.
So the river rewarded him
as one of their own with more
than Houdini’s hands,
with a love none dare equal.

from Rattle #11, Summer 1999
Tribute to Editors


Mike Catalano: “I killed my first deer this past winter—going 65 mph in a driving rainstorm. I’m thankful to the Iowan people who helped scrape the remains from my totaled Toyota. I’ve been on a two-year sabbatical writing and researching my family’s biography. I’m happy to be writing history instead of being history, after hitting that deer.”

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