04 May 2008

I saw a gold ring at the bottom of the river, glinting at my foolish heart

Norfolk Southern Railroad Trestle, Fairlawn, VA
Television and Tire, Wilderness Road, VA
Truck Tire, Wilderness Road, VA

--a poem I wrote a few years ago.

Approaching Evening

In late August
we drove south on route 90
to visit your grandmother
in the hospital. On the phone,
your mother explained—
she was gardening and fell,
her third stroke this year.

All that day
the flat water by the roadside
lay sullen as a long winter.
We spoke softly, our words flickering
like leaves in the crisp sunlight.
“She is old,” I said, enlisting fact
against our pain.

“Death is something we all must face.”
Even as I spoke, fear rippled
beneath my words. It rose up
in old barns shifting toward the ground,
in trucks gathering rust in fields of sage.
Quoting Yeats, you sighed, “all that’s beautiful
drifts away like the waters,” then pointed
toward shadows climbing the far ridge.

In a flash as quick as death,
the sun flared the hardwoods
into a furious blaze—
the maples grew red like blood
the hickories stood full,
the oaks glowed a mad yellow
like Van Gogh’s low, wheeling stars.

Bill Callahan (Smog), "Rock Bottom Riser"

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