Before lack of ability forced me to realize it wasn’t my calling, I tried to perfect my skill with a fly rod. Although I caught very few trout compared to the number of times my flies snagged overhanging branches, this pastime gave me an opportunity to relish solitude and the beauty of nature.
Pioneers cut down our virgin forests and attempted to farm the naked land. When these farms failed the trees returned but memories remain in cellar holes, eroded gravestones and woodland trails that once were logging railroads. I often encountered these as I cast a white miller onto a meandering stream and a sense that ghosts of the past were near inspired me to express my feelings in poetry The poem below is a Sestina, a form that has six stanzas containing six repeating words. Can you identify them?
Farm boy stands by the amber stream.
Wandering iridescent snake.
Senescent elm tries on new leaves,
Probing its roots in a mossy grave.
Loop and hiss of the coiling line,
Darting mayfly seeks the trout.
Swirl! What startles the lurking trout?
White steam spurts in a wind-drift stream,
Sudden shriek from the Erie line.
Warm dry scales of the gliding snake,
Caress the stone of the quiet grave,
Whisper of wind in aspen leaves.
Barb of the mayfly tears at leaves,
longs for the jaw of the speckled trout
saved for now from a frying-pan grave,
wriggles, escapes to the rocks down stream.
Words in the stone are Braille to the snake,
touches them, reads them line by line.
Letters, faint runes march in a line,
dappled in shade by the moving leaves.
Soften the message read by the snake,
truths repeated, known to the trout.
Long ago faces dark tears stream,
thin fingers trace the words on the grave.
Farm boy barks his shin on the grave,
trying to reach his tangled line.
Falling full length, his face in the stream,
long arms flailing, grasping at leaves
eye to eye with the startled trout,
watched by the darting tongue of the snake.
Deep from the ground I call to the snake.
Deep in the ground I call from the grave.
Done to him now as done with the trout,
follow the wraiths in a marching line.
Everyone enters, everyone leaves,
flowing like sand in an endless stream.
I was the snake. I was the trout. I swim in the stream.
I wrote the line on the mossy grave.
Hear me wind in the leaves. Whisper!