I tried matching once the beats of my heart to the wing-pulse of the kingfisher up and down the river. I read religiously the idiot scribbles of fire-scars on the ridge above Jenny Creek. Against the moss I set my lips just so and pulled from the seep a dirty mouthful. And when thrashing through the willows I scared up a black bear, which leapt into the river, swam straight across, and before disappearing into the far trees forever turned back, I tried seeing what the bear saw.
Klamath, Praise Song
With every given hour of this never-again afternoon, I stood neck deep in dark creek water, salmon fry nibbling at the backs of my knees.
It is difficult to undo our own damage, and to recall to our presence that which we have asked to leave. – Annie Dillard
I dream up the meadow deer come running like rain in the beginning—one, two, three, four. Now a thousand more. Hooves hammering at the mountain. Shoulders slick with froth & mange. Great snorts of lung-wheezed blood.
Down the river trail I see the reason is someone has built a boardwalk, erected streetlights, invited in a carnival—balloons, the complex stink of sugar, grease, & piss—& here’s a row of shops, a glass high rise, a sports arena,
& as if to top it off by the abandoned warehouse crooning on the corner,
sky blue suit & everything, I find a boy I knew
when I was just a boy, though he’s been dead for years. I’m looking for the woods,
I tell him. I’m looking for the river. I’m wishing you’d stay dead. Either that, or you’d never died. He dances this way, then that, now throws his head back & really belts it out—a tune all distance, glass, & gravel. I’m disappointed but understand
the only thing the dead can do for us is sing.
I hunch my shoulders then. Cross the tracks. Wander pitted streets. Plastic bags & crushed paper cups. A burnt-out car, front seat brimful
of bones. Down around me I try to pull the weak light of city stars, wear like a shawl the light. I reach & reach, & with the taste of weeds & diesel on my tongue
I wake. I dress. I run into the meadow, sink into the tall grass, my back against a sugar pine. My breath as far as the distant ridge, my heart as black.
From the woods two deer step into the meadow’s bluer waters. I rise into a crouch, bones levered against the earth. I would like