| Best Poems | Short Poems
THE AUTOPSY OF
TROUT FISHING IN AMERICA
This is the autopsy of Trout Fishing in America as if Trout
Fishing in America had been Lord Byron and had died in
Missolonghi, Greece, and afterward never saw the shores
of Idaho again, never saw Carrie Creek, Worsewick Hot
Springs, Paradise Creek, Salt Creek and Duck Lake again.
The Autopsy of Trout Fishing in America:
"The body was in excellent state and appeared as one that
had died suddenly of asphyxiation.
The bony cranial vault
was opened and the bones of the cranium were found very
hard without any traces of the sutures like the bones of a
person 80 years, so much so that one would have said that
the cranium was formed by one solitary bone.
meninges were attached to the internal walls of the cranium
so firmly that while sawing the bone around the interior to
detach the bone from the dura the strength of two robust men
was not sufficient.
The cerebrum with cerebellum
weighed about six medical pounds.
The kidneys were very
large but healthy and the urinary bladder was relatively
On May 2, 1824, the body of Trout Fishing in America
left Missolonghi by ship destined to arrive in England on the
evening of June 29, 1824.
Trout Fishing in America's body was preserved in a cask
holding one hundred-eighty gallons of spirits: 0, a long way
from Idaho, a long way from Stanley Basin, Little Redfish
Lake, the Big Lost River and from Lake Josephus and the
Big Wood River.
Last night a blue thing, the smoke itself, from our campfire
drifted down the valley, entering into the sound of the bell-
mare until the blue thing and the bell could not be separated,
no matter how hard you tried.
There was no crowbar big
enough to do the job.
Yesterday afternoon we drove down the road from Wells
Summit, then we ran into the sheep.
They also were being
moved on the road.
A shepherd walked in front of the car, a leafy branch in
his hand, sweeping the sheep aside.
He looked like a young,
Skinny Adolf Hitler, but friendly.
I guess there were a thousand sheep on the road.
hot and dusty and noisy and took what seemed like a long
At the end of the sheep was a covered wagon being pulled
by two horses.
There was a third horse, the bellmare, tied
on the back of the wagon.
The white canvas rippled in the
wind and the wagon had no driver.
The seat was empty.
Finally the Adolf Hitler, but friendly, shepherd got the
last of them out of the way.
He smiled and we waved and said
We were looking for a good place to camp.
We drove down
the road, following the Little Smoky about five miles and
didn't see a place that we liked, so we decided to turn around
and go back to a place we had seen just a ways up Carrie Creek.
"I hope those God-damn Sheep aren't on the road, " I said.
We drove back to where we had seen them on the road
and, of course they were gone, but as we drove on up the
road, we just kept fellowing sheep shit.
It was ahead of us
for the next mile.
I kept looking down on the meadow by the Little Smokey,
hoping to see the sheep down there, but there wasn't a sheep
only the shit in front of us on the road.
As if it were a game invented by the spincter muscle, we
knew what the score was.
shaking our heads side to side,
Then we went around a bend and the sheep burst like a
roman candle all over the road and again a thousand sheep
and the shepherd in front of us, wondering what the fuck.
same thing was in our minds.
There was some beer in the back seat.
It wasn't exactly
cold, but it wasn't warm either.
I tell you I was really embarrassed.
I took a bottle of beer and got out of the car.
I walked up to the shepherd who looked like Adolf Hitler,
"I'm sorry, " I said.
"It's the sheep, " he said.
(0 sweet and distant blossoms
of Munich and Berlin!) "Sometimes they are a trouble but it
all works out.
"Would you like a bottle of beer?" I said.
"I'm sorry to
put you through this again.
"Thank you, " he said, shrugging his shoulders.
the beer over and put it on the empty seat of the wagon.
That's how it looked.
After a long time, we were free of the
They were like a net dragged finally away from the
We drove up to the place on Carrie Creek and pitched the tent and took our goods out of the car and piled them in the tent.
Then we drove up the creek a ways, above the place where
there were beaver darns and the trout stared back at us like
We filled the back of the car with wood for the fire and I
caught a mess of those leaves for dinner.
They were small
and dark and cold.
The autumn was good to us.
When we got back to our camp, I saw the shepherd's wagon
down the road a ways and on the meadow I heard the bellmare
and the very distant sound of the sheep.
It was the final circle with the Adolf Hitler, but friendly,
shepherd as the diameter.
He was camping down there for
So in the dusk, the blue smoke from our campfire
went down and got in there with the bellmare.
The sheep lulled themselves into senseless sleep, one following
another like the banners of a lost army.
I have here a very
important message that just arrived a few moments ago.
It says "Stalingrad.
TROUT FISHING IN AMERICA
Long live our friend the revolver !
Long live our friend the machine-gun!
--Israeli terrorist chant
One April morning in the sixth grade, we became, first by
accident and then by premeditation, trout fishing in America
It came about this way: we were a strange bunch of kids.
We were always being called in before the principal for
daring and mischievous deeds.
The principal was a young
man and a genius in the way he handled us.
One April morning we were standing around in the play
yard, acting as if it were a huge open-air poolhall with the
first-graders coming and going like poolballs.
We were all
bored with the prospect of another day's school, studying
One of us had a piece of white chalk and as a first-grader
went walking by, the one of us absentmindedly wrote "Trout
fishing in America" on the back of the first-grader.
The first-grader strained around, trying to read what was
written on his back, but he couldn't see what it was, so he
shrugged his shoulders and went off to play on the swings.
We watched the first-grader walk away with "Trout fishing
in America" written on his back.
It looked good and
seemed quite natural and pleasing to the eye that a first-
grader should have "Trout fishing in America" written in
chalk on his back.
The next time I saw a first-grader, I borrowed my friend's
piece of chalk and said, "First-grader, you're wanted over
The first-grader came over to me and I said, "Turn
The first-grader turned around and I wrote "Trout fishing
in America" on his back.
It looked even better on the second
We couldn't help but admire it.
" It certianly did add something to the first-
It compleated them and gave them a kind of class
"It reallt looks good, doesn't it?"
"There are a lot more first-graders over there by the monkey-
"Lets get some more chalk.
We all got hold of chalk and later in the day, by the end of
lunch period, almost all of the first-graders had "Trout fishing
in America" written on their backs, girls included.
Complaints began arriving at the principal's office from
the first-grade teachers.
One of the complaints was in the
form of a little girl.
"Miss Robins sent me, " she said to the principal.
told me to have you look at this.
"Look at what?" the principal said, staring at the empty
"At my back, " she said.
The little girl turned around and the principal read aloud,
"Trout fishing in America.
"Who did this?" the principal said.
That gang of sixth-graders," she said.
"The bad ones.
They've done it to all us first-graders.
We all look like this.
"Trout fishing in America.
' What does it mean? I just got
this sweater new from my grandma.
'Trout fishing in America, " the principal said.
Miss Robins I'11 be down to see her in a little while," and
excused the girl and a short time later we terrorists were
summoned up from the lower world.
We reluctantly stamped into the principal's office, fidgeting
and pawing our feet and looking out the windows and yawning
and one of us suddenly got an insane blink going and putting
our hands into our pockets and looking away and then back
again and looking up at the light fixture on the ceiling, how
much it looked like a boiled potato, and down again and at the
picture of the principal's mother on the wall.
She had been a
star in the silent pictures and was tied to a railroad track.
"Does 'Trout fishing in America' seem at all familiar to
you boys?" the principal said.
"I wonder if perhaps you've
seen it written down anywhere today in your travels? 'Trout
fishing in America.
' Think hard about it for a minute.
We all thought hard about it.
There was a silence in the room, a silence that we all
knew intimately, having been at the principal's office quite a
few times in the past.
"Let me see if I can help you," the principal said.
you saw 'Trout fishing in America' written in chalk on
the backs of the first-graders.
I wonder how it got there.
We couldn't help but smile nervously.
"I just came back from Miss Robin's first-grade class,"
the principal said.
"I asked all those who had 'Trout fishing
in America' written on their backs to hold up their hands,and
all the children in the class held up their hands, except one
and he had spent his whole lunch period hiding in the lavatory.
What do you boys make of it .
? This 'Trout fishing in
We didn't say anything.
The one of us still had his mad blink going.
I am certain
that it was his guilty blink that always gave us away.
should have gotten rid of him at the beginning of the sixth
"You're all guilty, aren't you?" he said.
"Is there one of
you who isn't guilty? If there is, speak up.
We were all silent except for blink, blink, blink, blink, blink.
Suddenly I could hear his God-damn eye blinking.
It was very much
like the sound of an insect laying the 1, 000, 000th egg of our
"The whole bunch of you did it.
fishing in America' on the backs of the first-graders?"
And then the principal went into his famous E=MC2 sixth-
grade gimmick, the thing he always used in dealing with us.
"Now wouldn't it look funny, " he said.
"If I asked all your
teachers to come in here, and then I told the teachers all to
turn around, and then I took a piece of chalk and wrote 'Trout
fishing in America' on their backs?"
We all giggled nervously and blushed faintly.
"Would you like to see your teachers walking around all
day with 'Trout fishing in America' written on their backs,
trying to teach you about Cuba? That would look silly, wouldn't
it? You wouldn't like to see that would you? That wouldn't do
at all, would it?"
"No," we said like a Greek chorus some of us saying it
with our voices and some of us by nodding our heads, and
then there was the blink, blink, blink.
"That's what I thought, " he said.
"The first-graders look
up to you and admire you like the teachers look up to me and
admire me, It just won't do to write 'Trout fishing in America'
on their backs.
Are we agreed, gentlemen?"
We were agreed.
I tell you it worked every God-damn time.
Of course it had to work.
"All right, " he said.
"I'll consider trout fishing in Ameri-
ca to have come to an end.
But it wasn't completely over, for it took a while to get
trout fishing in America off the clothes of the first-graders.
A fair percentage of trout fishing in America was gone the
The mothers did this by simply putting clean
clothes on their children, but there were a lot of kids whose
mothers just tried to wipe it off and then sent them back to
school the next day with the same clothes on, but you could
still see "Trout fishing in America" faintly outlined on their
But after a few more days trout fishing in America
disappeared altogether as it was destined to from its very
beginning, and a kind of autumn fell over the first grade.
TROUT FISHING IN AMERICA
WITH THE FBI
Dear Trout Fishing in America,
last week walking along lower market on the way to work
saw the pictures of the FBI's TEN MOST WANTED MEN in
the window of a store.
the dodger under one of the pictures
was folded under at both sides and you couldn't read all of it.
the picture showed a nice, clean-cut-looking guy with freckles
and curly (red?) hair
RICHARD LAWRENCE MARQUETTE
Aliases: Richard Lawrence Marquette, Richard
26, born Dec.
12, 1934, Portland, Oregon
170 to 180 pounds
light brown, cut short
Complexion: ruddy Race:
white Nationality: American
auto body w
arks: 6" hernia scar; tattoo "Mom" in wreath on
ull upper denture, may also have lower denture.
s, and is an avid trout fisherman.
(this is how the dodger looked cut off on both sides and you
couldn't make out any more, even what he was wanted for.
Your old buddy, Pard
Your letter explains why I saw two FBI agents watching a
trout stream last week.
They watched a path that came down
through the trees and then circled a large black stump and
led to a deep pool.
Trout were rising in the pool.
agents watched the path, the trees, the black stump, the pool
and the trout as if they were all holes punched in a card that
had just come out of a computer.
The afternoon sun kept
changing everything as it moved across the sky, and the FBI
agents kept changing with the sun.
It appears to be part of
Trout Fishing in America
Top Richard Brautigan Poems