Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2022  Vol. 21  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Cougar Flat

Become aware, as the boy is beginning to,
that things must fade, be laid bare and stripped down
to an essence whether captured in words
or sketched with the burnt-end of a stick on a cliff wall.
Now sun, now tree, now father and fish.
The boy has crawled with his father onto the log jam
at the crook of the river. They lie down to look.
Light swirls around the brook trout floating over the sand.
If the pair can be reduced again, like charcoal figures
on stone, let’s go to work on them like time, subtract
the sound of water, the smell of pine sap, the St. Helens
ash blowing up the hillside in the late August breeze.
Notice how the sun swells in the treetops
like a force not of this world, and know that the man
will die badly in a town some three decades and four hundred
miles from here. Now something’s added: a horned apparition,
neither man nor animal at the edge of the scene,
the one who, for all our patience and delicacy of watching,
must always arrive. Look closely. There’s no gray yet
in my father’s beard. He’s left-handed, so his reel-handle
is on the side opposite mine. He keeps mini Snickers in a Ziploc
bag inside his creel. Back at the camp site my mother and brothers
are gathering wood for a fire. School starts next week.
What has taught us to love could teach us to die.
What hasn’t taught us to love . . . slow rainbow, slow rainbow.
No one speaks. The sand-swirl. The silver stream.  

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