It leaps, breaking the skin of the lake of possibility, this thing that flashes steel— this trout of a poem, wild with life, rainbow scales and spiny fins. Now, for patience, the pull of the catch:
I cast, wait for the jerk—the tug of the hook in bony jaw— feel the line go taut. The ballet begins, a wrestle to land this flailing, feral thing—all thrash and edge— and tame it into telling its own muscular story.
I heave it over the edge of its arrival, glorious, fighting the whole way, slippery as language. Its beauty twitches on the floor boards, its glisten spilling over the bottom of my notebook page.
If I become like you I will write about a roughed grouse, Says the boy, five years old, with a face like a chipmunk Storing up winter browse. We are at his school, where he And the other small mammals have written things for me On bright scraps of paper. He hands me his paper and I’ll Carry it in my wallet the rest of my life. Mister Brian, the Sun is raining all around, another child says to me. It is up And down sun, she says. I want to be a cookie when I’m Your age, says another child. Once we were all monkeys In skirts made from the skins of trees, says a boy with an Icicle tattoo. It’s templorary, he says, explaining it to me. I laugh and he laughs and every kid there starts laughing. I think I am going to fly up gently into the air over a tree From joy, as saints used to float when gripped by ecstasy. That happened to Saint Joseph Cupertino, you remember, Seventy times, it is said, and now I know why: no gravity.
Each prairie farm holds the tale— some child saved by the rope anchoring house to barn, or legend of the scofflaw neighbor lost, not found ’til Spring, too self-assured to fix a loosened end. Stretched through utter white, that line is life.
On this plateau of shaped terrain of gentle slopes and trees we carry on without a rope. When, baffled by white of winter storm, black of moon-free night, groggy grey of sleep delayed, I happen upon the fence that brain-map etched by scores of trips along this way brings me home.
Still, clambering from the drift, wet and cold, short one boot, I long for a sure connection
I see him, mariner Jesus, walking on corrupted waters of the Danube while down in silted depths lurk the unexploded bombs of lately wars; I walk out, hand in hand with the poem, crossing on the high redemption bridge, to earth corrupted by tar and concrete, where down in the darkly shiftless soil words crawl, eyeless and eager. Between sleep and day, light and black, I grow conscious of compelling truths— but something in the ego-wassailing of flesh compels me back to comfort, and something in the slippery eel-mud of the mind eases towards sleep, though always Jesus plods on over all the corrupted waters heading for the unforgiving hill, for his piercing cry of forgiveness out-into-the-outraged world.