Under the waterfall
Leaves finally reach
Bottom and stay put,
Every known foliage
Puffed into a hive
May strike you dizzy
When the sun is on them
And water above flows
Clear, the shaken colors
Point into your eyes
First winter light
You’d think it would have
Lasted forever like some
Of them around here do —
This one halfway nested
Beneath the ground, piled
On stone. Downstairs, then
Empty of buckets, if you looked
Above between wide floor boards
You would see where tubs
Of sap are brought to boil
And a few souls go at it day and night
In this tiny place with windows lit
And open shutters of the cupola
Dieseling clouds of sweet steam
Had you at some point in the day
Lean for a cooling moment out the
Sugarhouse door — feeling a realness
In yourself, the redwing’s flight over
Steep pasture, dry mud on high boots —
All of this for warm days and cold nights.
While the fire that bubbled your syrup
Was somehow the same fire
That burned you down.
After love, you lift your dress
Wash in cold running water.
I’ve to work in the morning,
Drive through the field, frighten
A flicker from wet grass
To the stone wall, birch, white oak.
It all started with you hugging my neck
Pulling back and laughing.
We’d open a large window upstairs
Lie down in the river sound.
The mason’s young helper unloads stone
Then breaks for a cigarette,
All day guns cement mixer blades.
Long handle shovel stuck in sand
Lime dust blowing
Whitewash peeling from ripped out
Barn ceiling boards.
Two weeks ago this was a new job —
Rotten sills weren’t jacked
Bolts cut —
A buzzard flew up from the valley
Cockeyed in stiff wind
Beating rough edged wings,
Very black on melting snow.
Now 4-wheel drives burn tread
On the hillside, tool boxes slam
Workers pitch vision to the ground,
Black flies sting our skin.
By the end of day a red fox
Hops out of that sunny part of the field.
I hear a school bus downshift miles away.
Two guys clean out a wheelbarrow
Drink from the hose
Talk of bear hunting.
from Where Rivers Meet, Bob Arnold
photo © bob arnold