I walked down to the shore this morning, sun still low on the sea;another had been there before me, making tracksthat made straight for the waves.Brown pelicans came with their ripples and ribbons; sanderlings and sandpiperskept darting, drilling the sand; under a breaker a conch lay broken and blazing,a ladder curving back to the deep.A pair of burred pufferfish, hides starred and striped, were curing to tanned leather,lips and eyes sewn tight in the glare. Then a four-wheel came, and exhaustand dark clouds swept the ocean away,leaving only the sun at my feet, following the swells in and out,each step stamping a small fire in the wet,the burn of the surf too bright now to face.
—Bow River, AlbertaThe rowdy gulls—derisive creatures,their yammer an instantaneous flash point of angerfor you. Escaped, your mammoth trout, for whichyou'd traveled here, the fishyou'd drawn so close that each haloed spotshowed clear, though the river was murky, its surface pockedby storm. The feral you of your youth returned,as if he'd never been gone—which he hadn't. Incredibly, it appearedto you, a man in his sixties, that what enduredof life would come to nothing. Your brother rockedin the bow of the boat. He'd caughta trophy minutes before, and released it.He teased you and, incredibly, in that instanthe seemed an enemy. What madness was that?Then reason came back:you weighed such insignificant lossagainst the loss of loved ones to age or disease.You considered a fish you would have freed againstthe elegant downstream bendin the river, at which a pair of eaglesteetered on spruce limbs, tails and heads essentialillustrations of whiteness. And in that momentyou missed your wife, your grownupchildren, a grandchild who shares the gamesshe invents for you, the smaller and younger twinswaiting their turns, you could hope, to do the same.Ineffable changes camealong with an effortless, dawdling gesture of snow,through which the sun now maundered down to the flow.Your trout was already cached in memory's vaults.The squalling gulls showed angel-pale.You turned and smiled at your brother. He smiled.And all was well. And all was well.
East Lansing, May 2003
If I really loved Jesus I would surely not be here in the sunshine.I'd be trying to love the poets now reading in a room without me.If I really, really loved I would not even think what I think,and it would go easier. Because my neighbors' dogs barkat dawn for sheer joy. Because like them I have known joy.I have matched and folded the family socks, survived historyso far, seen my small desires satisfied. Did I come all this wayto sit on a bench? Did the ragged goose feather once have a home?It's too hot to sit long in the sun. Can we, can we, can we, the girlasks her mother, and her brother hitches his pants and runs fastas he can down the wrong path. His sister calls and he runs back,sniffs a yellow tulip. Oh do what you want says her motherand the new weeds, and the cardinal says I will do what I can.