Ted Dyck


Ted Dyck has studied and taught in Canada, the United States, and Europe. He is the proprietor of an online writing and editing service called WorDoctor and the editor of TRANSITION, a magazine by, for, and about persons with direct experience of mental illness, published by CMHA (SK). Cutthroats & Other Poems (Turnstone 2014) is his fifth book of poetry. Today, he writes, edits, teaches, and flyfishes out of Eastend Saskatchewan.


What is it then
drives me to this clichéd edge–
to this face of vertigo?

That trout I hook has been caught before.
The pull on my line is as old as a mountain.
Many stand before me, here, at this edge
overlooking this swirling pool.
The neck I now break has been broken
already, and my thanks to the river gods
are a repeat a repeat a repeat a repeat.

When I lift the last morsel to my lips
I know that as I eat this holy fish
so too will I be eaten. I drink
my brandy, my blood.

Every new heart breaks as no heart
before it. The pale rose blackens
eternally on the thorn. The crescent
moon sinks forever into a curved
morning sky.

The great machine stutters,
and begins, again.

  • From Cutthroats and Other Poems (Turnstone Press, 2014, p.19)


In the 90s I was lucky to be able to spend my late summers back-country camping along the upper reaches of the South Ram River on the eastern slopes of the Alberta Rockies, a region paradoxically called The West Country. The paradox extends to a flourishing cutthroat trout fishery introduced  into The South Ram above the falls in David Thompson Canyon in the 50s. And to the situation of  an otherwise decent human being hooking, killing, and eating a trout whose beauty is exceeded only by the very rare golden trout.

The poem grew out of the many hours I spent fly-fishing a favourite pool, an experience sketchily described within its lines.
More accurately, the poem meditates on the terrible beauty of an endless cycle of living and dying in which the fisherman and the trout participate equally. As my Inuvialuit friends taught me many years after this poem was written, the Creator, my “great machine,” offers the wild trout to sustain another more or less wild creature, man, who will eventually be returned by the same machine to feed the trout.

This motif is applied to the much lesser, closer cycles of the human heart in the last stanza. Yes, every love will die, the moon is always waning; yet the morning is imminent, and “The great machine [endlessly] stutters, / and begins, again.”