Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sight Lines

photo: ralph murre

          Sight Lines
            by Richard Merelman

            Whenever we get together, my sister goes on
            about the beauty of rapids, puddles, ripples.   She speaks
            of a thunderstorm that announces a rainbow
            or of a sprightly trout run behind her barn.  If a cold autumn
            kills her young sycamore, it doesn’t matter
            because the stream remains a fisherman’s paradise.
            During droughts, the brook becomes a rivulet connected
            to Lake Oneida, where she and her husband spend
            the summer months.  My sister welcomes
            thaws as water scrawls, calls a drop of water
            courageous for opening an ice dam to light. 
            She refers to hot springs as vapor prayers, to runnels
            as infant waterfalls, and to a month of drizzle      
            as an April shower. Water-soaked Communion wafers
            she describes as doubly holy.  Lovely enough stuff,

            while a few yards from my cabin on this slough of the Hudson
            silt and slime and sludge congeal into a beige paste
            that settles behind abandoned backwater shacks.
            Last week I wrote my sister about the snapping turtle I found
            upside-down at the edge of a jetty, claws gnawed, stomach
            gutted by hovering buzzards.  The odor of the swamp
            across the road causes my eyes to water.  Marsh grass
            strangles lily pads that used to float on the surface.
            Three miles north, the river unfolds into a pastel fan.  But here
            the channel narrows, slackens, spawns a greasy sheen.
            Every Easter I vow to visit a pastor.  Always, a sheath
            of fog sets down, like a swarm of black flies.
            I could drive through the darkness to Mass,
            though, as I tell my sister, I never go.  When she asks me why,
            I remember the bloated carp in the shallows.  It’s the things I see, I say.

             ~  first published in Verse Wisconsin