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‘Fishing at the Falls’, ‘Scarlet Tanager’Robert VanderMolen
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Vol. 25 No. 2 · 23 January 2003
Poem

‘Fishing at the Falls’, ‘Scarlet Tanager’

Robert VanderMolen

395 words

Fishing at the Falls

Beer is cold in the water
A breeze is cold behind us,
A draught from shadow, where it
Is cavelike, the wall eaten under,
A moody huddling, where rock
Has fallen from the upper lip
Like crumbs (we imagine)
Until rock meets rock
At the rubble of river

How we’ve turned to fiction,
Says Dick – all this hunger,
Pitchy with wonder, came full
Circle in a way . . .

There’s no assuaging his assumptions

Pines hanging by roots
A hundred feet above us

Shuddering volume, illuminated mist,
Dull bugs rising, tranquillity
Coupled with an awkward faith –

Leading threads of comparison,
Of expertise, he continues,
When daylight spread her hips
Into a grand generosity . . .

Yeah, I say, but who’s going
To pay for it now

*

I refuse to submit, he whispers
Just before he dies. Small
In his wife’s arms, like an irregular pillow
With fish inside

Those strenuous tubes drooping.
The odour.
Birches standing
Like broom handles outside his wide window

*

Spunky cold in the cemetery,
Someone reading Tennyson
Too slowly – bright sand
Tossed over ice and snow.
The lack of substantial trees,
Markers dating from lumber days –
We’re knotted on one side
In front of straw rising behind the casket,
In front of winter, in front of sitting
Past midnight, shelves, and ashtrays,
Carpet, the telephone dry,
Wires banging against the siding.
I wanted to say, the knowledge
That we were friends
Always made me feel better. But I didn’t. Rather,
It was you bumping over the hill
Honking in the dark, firing
Your Spanish-American War pistol.
A grocery sack with steak and a bottle
Or two of wine

Scarlet Tanager

An ice storm that snapped lines.
A surge of bravado
Music played too loud.
In winter when snow turned to pumice
I thought I’d leave. The lawnchair
I’d stolen I meant to return
To the tennis courts. Gracie ripped
All the pages out of all the books.
I pumped up the tyres of the Ford
But couldn’t decide where to travel.
At night there were eleven lights
On the street. Sixteen cars and a motorcycle.
In the chill of privacy
One seeks promise –
I’d never heard turtles mating
For instance, or seen Walloon Lake.
Which is how winter withered,
Writhed towards the stoops and steps.
Banisters and doors
Shrinking in sleep

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