Baiting a Hook

Baiting a Hook

Worms don’t feel anything,
no spine, my father says, but I don’t
believe him. I can see
the panic in its droop,
the kind of weakness that
makes young boys sadistic.

Don’t think so much, he says,
and so I squeeze my eyes
and pluck out the one on top.
It recoils and drags
a pebble with it, the smallest
lifesaver, then shrinks
back into itself.

A deep plum stain invades
its body like a tincture.
It can’t know what’s coming
but some instinct tells it
to ooze mucous into my hand.

I hold its head tight against
the barb as if threading a needle.
It wriggles madly, thrashes
against my palm. I pierce
that head and keep going—
skewer it like shish kebob.

The writhing slows, the worm
embraces its new wire frame.

It seems to love the bayonet,
I tell myself.

And now, well,
now, I’m over it, and more