Fishing, Eastern Oregon, July, 2007

Fishing, Eastern Oregon, July, 2007

It is my favorite memory
To take out
And dust off
And hold up to the light
To rotate in its gyroscopic frame

The morning, cool
And the deep, fishless water
Next to a camping couple
Who did not want us there

And that overlook, past where you used to cut wood,
Which seemed so significant and beautiful to you.

Who knows how long it took us,
Up those hot and winding roads,
To find that first pond, guarded
By an embankment of orange gravel
Past where there was a grassy,
Flowered descent into those Oregon hills.
Or maybe I imagined that
But I did not imagine the tugging trout
And the sandwiches you made
Or the hours we drove and fished that day
And again the next, so that my mother and wife were annoyed—how your back must have ached!
(It was a two-day license, so what could we do?)

But I cannot remember what you told me
About your father and your time in the Navy.
Now I would ask you about my mother’s mother, long dead by then,
The woman confined to those few photographs
In the album after your funeral:
Smiling with you on a beach, or leaning out the window of your car,
Or looking giddy and flushed on the couch next to you
and my child-aunt and my slightly older mother—who says she still remembers that dress her mother wore—
Or on a pier in San Diego
Who was she and how did you fall in love with this woman
Who gave me one-fourth of my genes?

I would have asked you that, but I was already riding in the hearse (a converted minivan, really)
With the funeral director, who was also
The grave-digger, and occasionally even offered a few words
For families who had no congregation
Or maybe no religion
This man, a year and a half on from a fatal esophageal cancer, and a prognosis of months;
He told me this story as we passed through, and out of town
As out of a life, and up a hill filled with the bones of the dead I never knew, and never saw,
just like you in your closed casket,

From where I looked out, eyes straining against the wind
That was making everyone huddle together against it and against their tears,
I could see out toward those hills where we fished
And talked and I will remember your voice, even without words,
and your profile and my sunburnt head in one of your hats
And those ponds marked on a GPS
In the truck my grandmother sold




Six days of silence and rest
And on the seventh day
A walk
Up a mountain in the dark

There, looking east,
Day broke upon them
And scattered blooming shards
In an ever-expanding arc of light
Two billion sparks and more; no fear–yet

There, Moses on Sinai and Elijah on Horeb:
Heard the Name of God as a synonym for promise,
Or the whisper, still and small,
In a cloud and a cave’s mouth.
Then, down they went–
To an easily unsettled congregation
And to anoint Hazael and Jehu and Elisha,
With crowns and swords and a cloak,
Thrown without a word

But there the cloud, so black so bright,
(Morning, once broken, put back together again as night,)
Stops words that fall from Peter’s mouth like broken teeth
With the Word; now fear!
Now glowing faces buried in the dirt

The Word not only speaks but touches,
Raises from holes punctured in the ground at regular intervals.
(Easier to mow around.)
And, eyes opened, there’s only One to see
In all the Law and Prophets and Psalms
Sand still dropping from their foreheads and empty hands