A Communion of Water and Blood, p.1Bernard Fancher
A Communion of Water and Blood
Copyright 2012 by Bernard Fancher
All rights reserved
without the author’s permission.
Table of Contents
A Communion of Water
On Wiscoy Creek
How to Write a Poem
Long Shadows Farm
Pretty, Met Only Briefly
The Sky is Green
Waiting in an Open Doorway
Words were First Tangible Things
Looking Through Glass, Darkly
October 19, 2009
Work in Progress
Prescription for Living
The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge
Before Valentine’s Day
Easy Way Out
Imagining the Future without You
Walking Barefoot Through Dandelions
Where a Poem Explains
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.
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
and reels, we clamored down a long
and skunk cabbages rolled like green
A Mayfly hatch
above this mirroring pool,
while my brother cast
a shadow across the blue
Now alone, I lay my leader
a sickle moon.
a submerged log
purls water into a bubbling squall.
A shiner silvers through crystal
then sounds, fading
like a falling star.
I wait, frightened by the deepening
by my brother’s ratcheting
retrieve, I caught an eerie emptiness
that has lured me back
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
Better yet, don’t.
Not at first, anyway.
Just look at something,
observe closely, pause and think;
maybe take a nap.
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,
Concentrate on one thing
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.
Try to delight.
Seek grace, as well forgiveness.
Allow yourself to express—
more or less than intended.
Embrace what is true, good,
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.
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
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
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—
wanting to kiss what is hurting
and remake it all
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.
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.
A Communion of Water and Blood by Bernard Fancher / History & Fiction have rating 3.4 out of 5 / Based on31 votes