Early morning climb to the roof
Cold dew on pebbled tar, taste of
Galvanized nails in your mouth
Work — nail shingle to shingle tight —
Each hammer pound echoes another
Pound in the hills, enough to wonder
Where it ends and who hears it then
Scrag is what they call her
A woman who has been on the river
Longer than anyone of us —
Long white hair braided and pinned up,
Yellow slicker, old pants and a squint.
Once a week she rides down the road
Real slow to the Massachusetts border,
Looks in on everyone’s place,
Then turns around and coming back
Does the same.
Her son doesn’t live out here anymore —
When Clayton did, he lost his wife for it.
Lived with his son and the small farm
For as many years as it takes to get
Sick of it, then moved closer to town
And worked for the state park.
Now his own son is doing the same —
With a wife and a baby and the job
In a wood factory, near Vernon,
Where the power plant burns into the sky.
That leaves Scrag.
I heard that name first from a young hunter
Who would never hunt, half what she has,
And he knows it.
She’s tiny, body gripped like a hickory,
She’ll tend the farm all men have left —
Mend fence and draw water and shovel shit,
Make sure the pigs don’t get loose.
When Clayton comes to sugar at mud-time
She hangs the buckets with him,
Pulls a tractor along the side of the road.
Her hair’s long and white and probably beautiful.
In this raw wind it blows apart like late summer
Treeing the Raccoon
I’m running and dodging mud holes
And ice, a human wind slamming out of
The woodshed and into the moonlight,
Where we have lain and waited the
Return of the raccoon. I was thinking
Of grabbing a coal shovel, the axe,
Even a stick on my way out the door,
But my voice seemed to do the trick —
Frightening him off tin sheets of
The duck pen and into the darkness of
His mask. I’m crushing through soft snow
And somewhere ahead he’s scurrying it
Seems in a half-circle, until my war cry
Has gripped him claws and bark up a
Tall ash tree between the house and pond —
Maybe 20 feet — until he has regained
Himself in the crotch; where under the
Wizard cap of stars I poke a flashlight
Into the first night of spring, and with
A disgusted look in the eye, he turns his
WHERE RIVERS MEET