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
water.

——

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

A Photograph

Flora Belle Clark

(5 Oct 18626 Jul 1883)

She faces us three-quarters;
her hair pulled back
by a headband;
white, pleated collar tight
about her neck; smooth,
fair skin; pug nose; placid gaze
looking out at something
we shall never see.

No background is visible,
just the whiteness of paper
out of which she arose,
into which she is inevitably descending:
a faint yellow image
like the sheen of oil on water.

She was born in Ohio,
raised in Illinois,
married,
gave birth to a girl in Kansas,
and died in Iowa.
This is what we know.
The sheen of oil on water.