A communion of water and.., p.1
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       A Communion of Water and Blood, p.1
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           Bernard Fancher
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A Communion of Water and Blood


  A Communion of Water and Blood

  Selected Poems

  by

  Bernard Fancher

  Copyright 2012 by Bernard Fancher

  All rights reserved

  without the author’s permission.

  ***

  Table of Contents

  A Communion of Water

  Interlude

  On Wiscoy Creek

  River Twin

  How to Write a Poem

  Long Shadows Farm

  One Morning

  Pretty, Met Only Briefly

  Portage

  Six Mallards

  The Sky is Green

  Afterlife

  Waiting in an Open Doorway

  Persevering

  Words were First Tangible Things

  Looking Through Glass, Darkly

  October 19, 2009

  Work in Progress

  Prescription for Living

  The Fall

  The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge

  Desire

  Felicity

  Regret

  Before Valentine’s Day

  Enchantment

  Easy Way Out

  Type

  Imagining the Future without You

  Inertia

  Sacagawea

  Plaint

  Walking Barefoot Through Dandelions

  Where a Poem Explains

  This Moment

  The White Fields

  ***

  A Communion of Water

  I stand again over the surface on a narrow board walk,

  Waiting as then for something hidden

  To rise from within the still body of water below.

  The rod moves, pinioned by my hand, lifting the plumb line,

  My thumb stopping the action, bringing the bobber along in one drawn motion

  In concert with the torpedo-shaped dropper, the whole shebang swinging out

  Languidly, pulling the dangling worm helplessly to a place

  Beyond the leading lead weight’s plopping reentry.

  (Mid-flight, the bobber attempts to exert undue influence

  Commensurate with its dimension, throwing everything slightly off kilter,

  But I concentrate on the initial tug and release,

  Imagining the free flight of the worm, absent all the intervening complications.)

  In memory, a half dozen small trout

  Remain caught in the clasped grip of the stringer

  Whose outsized, brutish hooks pierce the delicate membranes

  Of their mouths, continuing an indignity which I feel more intensely now

  Than I did at their dying. I pull them free, dripping, from the dock side

  And hold them aloft until, again fluttering, they lie pressed together,

  Perfectly motionless at last in mid-air.

  A few yellow jackets conspire, hovering nearby,

  First nervously exploring the scent, before more boldly intruding

  Upon the proceedings as I place the point of a blade

  In the ventral orifice of the first fish’s belly; slitting it open,

  Spilling entrails that look so much like engulfed worms

  I think, even then, in my childlike way,

  There must be some tangible link between form and function.

  (I simply reason the guts are like worms, and that’s all I consider—

  Except now as I write.)

  All one afternoon playing Authors, sitting cramped in a camper

  Waiting out a mid-day thunderstorm,

  I ask slyly for books held already in my hand.

  At night I walk dreaming through the back woods,

  Discovering and removing a boulder from under which

  An unplugged wellspring flows clear and free from the soil.

  (I dream, as then, now of a time and place no words can subsequently go,

  Sitting inside a boat, afraid to move, loathe to make any noise

  That would surely broadcast through the bottom,

  Hesitating even to react when a sunfish bites and transmits

  Its life presence up to me from the scary, mysterious depth.)

  Finally, next morning, when the weather relents,

  The lake lies stretched thin as smoke, devoid of all motion—

  Except at the surface, pin-pricked with sprinkles,

  Dumb hatchery trout rise en mass, begging to be caught.

  Afterwards, I lie on my belly, slicing the water, cleaning my knife,

  Feeling the line between heaven and what lies below

  Holding my wrist firm in its watery grip.

  ***

  Interlude

  With a finger, I write my name upon the pliant water.

  My eyes follow two swallowtails flapping a kind of semaphore

  as they dart and flash between sky and grass.

  I watch from my back door until they disappear

  and watch again at dusk as the moon draws near.

  It braves the dark and reflects upon the water

  just as I do, and so we pair and do the same for some nights after,

  each time our rendezvous progressing later

  until, eventually, the moon fails entirely to appear.

  In turn, I gaze instead on fireflies that dot and dash against the dark,

  not exactly flashing Morris code, but signaling nonetheless.

  Mornings, I walk upon the dew and leave a trail

  that dissolves like mist beneath the gaining, then lessening sun.

  Afternoons, the slug and snail dare not embark,

  nor earthworms under threat of pain, or even worse duress;

  their slimy leavings suggest prudence more than cowardice.

  By summer’s end the weather comes undone as dark clouds intrude;

  the changing interlude can be read writ large and small

  to scale upon both mackerel sky and bulging gall.

  Far afield, a buck tail waves a flag of false surrender;

  a Granny Smith apple drops, and then another;

  crickets chirr, and hoppers whir, then close their wings altogether,

  and whir again when I walk nearer. An inconsolable cooing

  dove presages silence as surely as the falling springtime diminuendo

  of the fluttering twilit timber-doodle.

  The word made flesh or cloud or grass means just the same as,

  or maybe less than, the broken line of geese I watch pointedly go.

  Reading more portent in a cloud-filled pond of bluegill, I feel distress

  at first, but then a moment later mostly Southern Comfort

  as rain inscribes the mirroring surface with a quick Braille splatter.

  I close my eyes and allow my spine to register another shiver,

  comprehending meaning in rain becoming ponded water.

  Deeper delving chills my brain, so I content myself to skim the surface

  with my toes, contemplating worlds, not words, below;

  I only know at last everything is as is and must suffice,

  and rain will sometimes fall yet yield no rainbow,

  dissolving indistinguishably into all the lines I etched last winter

  skating upon the impenetrable ice.

  ***

  On Wiscoy Creek

  1

  Carrying rods

  and reels, we clamored down a long

  incline, detouring

  black muck

  and skunk cabbages rolled like green

  cigars.

  A Mayfly hatch

  flurried

  above this mirroring pool,

  while my brother cast

  a shadow across the blue
<
br />   night sky.

  Now alone, I lay my leader

  down, denting

  a sickle moon.

  2

  Upstream,

  a submerged log

  purls water into a bubbling squall.

  A shiner silvers through crystal

  calm,

  then sounds, fading

  like a falling star.

  I wait, frightened by the deepening

  dark.

  3

  In stillness

  broken

  by my brother’s ratcheting

  retrieve, I caught an eerie emptiness

  that has lured me back

  for more.

  ***

  River Twin

  On the east bridge tonight

  I watch a great blue heron

  standing shin-deep in stillness,

  its neck an elongated S

  reflecting on water.

  For a moment

  I think to try its patience,

  consider testing the water with my own two feet

  as if to find in all of time that one perfect millisecond

  poised between strike and detection.

  Instead, I choose to ride on,

  leaving the heron locked into its own staring image,

  outlasting my fickle desire to engage

  or remain still.

  ***

  How to Write a Poem

  Start somewhere.

  Better yet, don’t.

  Not at first, anyway.

  Just look at something,

  observe closely, pause and think;

  maybe take a nap.

  Enjoy life.

  Ride a bike.

  Walk the dog.

  Scratch the cat.

  Feel the paws wrap around your hand;

  let a single claw grip your paltry skin.

  Smell a rose, taste a petal.

  Drink a cup of rain.

  Form a theory of everything

  or of nothing at all.

  Stay entirely in the moment,

  disassociate.

  Concentrate on one thing

  or another.

  Don’t text and drive.

  Read the classics, read the papers,

  read the tea leaves.

  Know that looking up Eurydice

  will send you to Orpheus,

  which will also send you to hell

  if you have any imagination at all, which

  may or may not be helpful

  (depending on what line you wish to pursue.)

  Develop a semi-coherent world

  view, but understand

  that doesn’t mean all that much either.

  Memorialize an impulse,

  cast the ephemeral

  in stone. (Casting the stone, count

  how many times it skips upon the water.)

  Don’t be a slave to literalism.

  Say what you mean, approximately.

  Play at syntax, line length, punctuation.

  Embrace surprise.

  Try to delight.

  Seek grace, as well forgiveness.

  Allow yourself to express—

  more or less than intended.

  Embrace what is true, good,

  recognizable.

  Realize sometimes it’s simply enough

  to watch a sunset

  while having a drink with a friend.

  ***

  Long Shadows Farm

  A pause in a winter’s labor of replanting posts

  revealed the muted turbulence of two dozen geese

  swaying in as if on strings, ailerons canted,

  passing at barely treetop height directly overhead

  with webbed feet landing gear extended, reaching to touch

  down on the frozen pond.

  Their barking immediately diminished to breathing then.

  My breathing, becoming once more part of an intricate pulse,

  diminished then too, yielding

  to the percussive attack of a pileated woodpecker

  in the wood beyond the stone fence.

  Forty odd horses gazed from the fields

  off and on all that winter while I worked.

  This soggy spring morning I gaze from my window

  and remember I made only friends, even of the shy deer

  and turtles that shuffled across the long dirt drive.

  Someday I may find my way back

  but for now that world remains as I remember,

  though the geese may be long gone, maybe the horses too.

  ***

  One Morning

  On the way to work this morning

  I kicked one leg up after the other

  over a rusted wire fence

  that defined the difference between farm

  and wild field

  and immediately crouched in the tall wet grass,

  creeping close to the still pond below

  until the mallard drake I knew was there

  knew I was there too

  and bolted upward, leaving

  undulations on the water to mark its place.

  ***

  Pretty, Met Only Briefly

  At the register

  for a motionless moment

  she sees her hand leave

  the ten dollar bill under

  the clamping roller

  before the tray fully retracts

  and quietly, as if reflecting again

  on the moment, she says, No,

  it wasn’t sleep

  but a late evening ride

  over snow

  with her grandfather steering

  through unseen barbed wire

  that wrinkled the skin

  of her cheek.

  I imagine she remembers

  removing her face,

  adding to skin

  torn with cold

  cream dabbed with a hanky,

  hoping to heal

  the scar in her sleep.

  But no world of wonder

  ameliorates or reverses

  this transformation.

  The wire whips, catches,

  lightly kisses her cheek

  again and again

  in her dreams,

  just as the man

  standing still at the counter

  replays the fantasy—

  touching her,

  wanting to kiss what is hurting

  and remake it all

  better.

  ***

  Portage

  for Jim

  Catching an eye on the water’s gilt edge,

  I imagine the hidden cataract just beyond

  the entrance of Letchworth State Park,

  where the beginning gorge compels the train to cross

  a high trestle, and the river to drop

  straight into a cold boiling caldron.

  I see myself projected anew, swept over a ledge

  of unrelenting water, forever—

  a deluge to submerge one under a tumult of dead dross

  if you let it. But this day, transiting Portageville Bridge,

  I refuse to let it. I am untroubled to remember

  two boys on a lark coming to a graceless stop;

  briefly closing my eyes, I make believe again to see

  them aborting their precocious raft ride

  at Whiskey Bridge a mile upriver, clasping to upended

  tree roots rather than be swept farther down current.

  Reconnoitering the waters below, I cross,

  vainly whispering, invoking your name; I ought

  now confess: recurring delusion allows me to think

  salvation derives from exiting the recycling torrent

  passing beneath this moving car

  and bridge surface; I feel less dread now than before,

  but still seek to put that memory aside,

  preferring to swap perilous thought
/>
  for an infinitely more pleasant rendezvous with drink

  at the Genesee Falls bar.

  Eyes closed to danger, you paddle so determinedly;

  the coming precipice doesn’t deter you at all.

  While I grope airily, ineffectually, for shore

  in a futile attempt to pull myself from the dream,

  you concentrate all the more fixedly

  ahead, closing faster with each stroke upon the fall.

  Leaving the river these many years later,

  I hear my voice still rebounding off steel and concrete

  overhead as the canoe pinions upon a rock and we teeter.

  We breathe no word in the roaring interlude

  that a listener might construe as indiscrete.

  It is all we can do to balance terror and obsequious

  nature, knowing we must enter the stream

  to escape the pitiless brown god attempting to drown us.

  ***

  Six Mallards

  They now stay instead of flying off at our approach

  each time we walk along the narrow road above the pond.

  In the short time of our tentative mutual acquaintance

  they’ve grown accustomed to our routine,

  simply easing to the middle of the pool anymore as we pass.

  Even so, they still loudly object as we near. I hear the concern,

  or maybe it’s mere annoyance, voiced in the gargled quacks

  of the drakes as they move to mid-pond, paddling in place

  while the hens loiter relatively sedately at the sedge edge of our seeing

  or follow at some discrete distance along.

  Chance points, Beau paces—each conducting his own investigation

  of the fiery sumac, both eventually plunging together in and out.

  But their antics change nothing. The ducks remain, neither entirely placated

  nor entirely nonplussed.

  Coming up the drive, we skirt the edge of a brown field

  abutting the broad river valley. An enlarging swath of dull goldenrod

  shares the untilled land with dried milkweeds

  whose exploded seedpods spill white fluff like snow.

  Soon enough, the pond will freeze. Standing at a window

  looking out on the pond, I watch the unconcerned mallards, wondering

  what will become of them then.

 
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