When I was your age, I remember once actually wishing upon a star. I’m not going to tell you what I wished for, because who knows — it might still come true. Although I suspect that that “star” was actually Venus, first star-like object in the evening sky as it so often is. And I’m not sure whether a neighboring planet possesses the same wish-granting powers as some sun whose light has just taken a million years to get here. It’s that very distance — the huge, mostly empty gulf we stare across — that’s responsible for star-power, I think.

skunk cabbage

When I was your age, I was as fascinated by death and decay as I am now, but I had a very one-dimensional view: death was simply a horror, something to be recoiled from. It didn’t occur to me that aging is usually necessary for sugars to form, and that decay and fermentation involve a kind of magic. Of course, back then I didn’t drink alcohol, either, which is something we do mostly to try and recapture the spontaneity of childhood. It’s hard to be quite as spontaneous when you wake up every morning with aches in your joints.

Maianthememum in berry

When I was your age, my favorite thing to do was to lie in the woods and dream about all the things I might do someday if I ever stopped dreaming. After a while, the dreaming took over and became my primary vocation, to the extent that I can be said to have one.  Creating poetry involves a very disciplined form of dreaming, actually more similar to a half-conscious sleeper’s lucid dreaming than to typically self-indulgent daydreams. And you know what’s weird? I hardly daydream at all anymore. My 8th-grade math teacher would probably be astonished to hear that. I still remember a poster she had on her classroom wall — she was very fond of motivational posters. This one showed a seagull, and read, “They can because they think they can.” I might be an example of someone who can because I know I can’t. The only flying that matters to me now is the kind I do in dreams. I’ve gotten pretty good at it, I think.

the big fish

When I was your age, I did go fishing at a friend’s house once. The “pond” was a bit bigger — the Georgian Bay in Lake Huron — but the fish was no bigger than my hand. And we put it with the others and ate it for supper, as I recall, unlike the bass you caught last week. We didn’t worry about mercury back then.

There might’ve been other scattered fishing expeditions, but that’s the only one I remember. Picture two or three cabins on a small island of smooth, bare granite dotted with junipers and maybe a couple pine trees. I got a cabin to myself that night, lined with books and a bed that folded down out of the wall. A shack, really. I loved it. I’ve always loved the water, even though I’m not much of a swimmer. I got up at dawn the next morning so I could have the island briefly to myself — or not so much the island, but the feeling of being surrounded by all those miles of deep water, full of secret things that had absolutely nothing in common with the surface play of wave-shadows and reflections. I stood listening to the sounds of strange birds.


UPDATE 7/30: I had to edit the URL to eliminate confusion with the date archive. My apologies to anyone who tried to comment earlier and couldn’t get there by clicking the permalink. (Thanks to Marja-Leena for alerting me to this.)

The photos in this post, like the photos in Anglers and Dragonflies, were all taken at a friend’s property last week. See the complete photoset (36 pictures) here.

6 Replies to “13”

    1. I always liked the line in that cornball song from “Hee Haw”: “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” Most people would regard my lifestyle choices as an unmitigated disaster, but I do feel lucky, as you say.

  1. this poem is gorgeous. Thank you. (the video is also beautiful but very painful to watch). Foxes are my totem and each sighting is a visitation. maybe check out my own rabid fox poem (one of them)…I think its online somewhere. “The Undeniable Pressure of Existance”

    1. Hi Patricia! I’m so glad you like my poem — and thanks for letting us know about yours. I found you reading it on a Poetry Foundation podcast, here. Very moving.

    1. Hi Michelle. Yeah, it was the biggest bass anyone had caught in that pond in the two years since our friends bought the property. She caught it with a bamboo pole and line, baited with a smaller bass she’d just caught a minute before with a minnow for bait.

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