The ghosts of men who named the river
suckle moon-limned mist slipping down
from thick firefly-flickering treelines
to embrace two silos rusted with rain and
fragrant with grain. There are still summer-
lush meadows to bed down in the droning
noonday long, while fritillaries inspect
purple clumps of thistle and doves
drowse in the boughs of jack pine.
Through another man’s binoculars
I saw an osprey disembowel a trout
in the silver reaches of a dead riverside oak.
I was standing in the river
in which other men had stood.
I stood in it twice.
I was not the same man.
The dry grass clusters on the banks
twittered with unseen mice.
Once men sheltered against the bluffs
from purple-fisted storms that flung
ragged sheets of hail against their pale
and upturned faces. I floated downstream
on the inner tube of a truck tire and
their hieroglyphs lodged in my vision.
For once I was not tired.
The man descended from the lost race
of Norwegian woodcarvers carves wood
still. His face is carved from a combination
of their faces, and it hardly moves
as he speaks to his pupils in the sawdusty
shade of his woodshop. The hilt of his knife
is elk antler worn smooth. What will be
born from the sweet pulp of days?
asks his mother from the grave.
This is one of 2 poems by Joe Fletcher. To read "Immanuel Kant," click here.