Southern Illinois Spring

The pond I fish
holds an offering of sky within
the water. I cast into clouds —
draw them close on the
ripple of a wave.

Geese warble
silently past my boat as
they fly at the waterline.
In the depths fish lurk, hidden
by a thunderhead — their darkness
masked by the gray, moving
forms rolling, building above.

Water spiders dance upon the
mirror surface flecked with dust
of protozoa. A breeze kicks up.
I pull on the oars, slicing
through steely sky. I draw
to shore as the rain begins.

Millions of ripples intersect
each other, unbroken as they
expand, dividing the sky among
themselves until the choppy water
arises in petulant waves. Fish
surrender to the moment
of anarchy, thrashing, striking
wildly at the line I cast again
and again. The sky takes
back itself and returns


I’m not sure how many years ago I wrote this, but it’s in one of my chapbooks.

At Lake Ronnie, 1975

In the dark
I find my uncle’s voice
punctuated by a cigarette tip,
burning bright orange
then red as the sentence
rises in conclusion,
followed by the laughter
of all gathered.

Yellow party lanterns
strung around the clubhouse
screened in porch
light the way for
escaping conversation
to roll down the steep lawn,
across the boat dock
then meet chance phrases
carried at dusk
from the other side
of the lake.

The random gang of syntax
gathers on Uncle Mel’s salmon pink
fiberglass pontoon boat,
casts off the bow line
and motors at slow speed
to the lake’s center.

Words drift in and out
of this party of strays.
They become less and less
coherent as the night deepens
then stagger off
to separate silences
before dawn

when fish awaken from dreams
of being drawn beyond choosing
toward brilliant light,
dancing gracefully
in a long arc.

Most take this
as a good omen
and swim unaware
beneath the rectangular shadow,
a man’s loud voice,
and a dusting of cigarette ash
on the water.