Here it is, the second installment in this three-part prose poem about a creek behind my boyhood home. I’ve reprinted part one here, too, so you won’t have to refer back to yesterday’s post. I hope you enjoy this. Comments are welcome.
Our creek was not like the ones in the books
There was no waterfall, no deep, blue hole, no long placid runs
like those in the calendar pictures.
Ours was just behind the back yard
and through a thicket of sumac and brambles,
vines and nettles
and poison ivy
I had to crawl through.
This was the snaking strip of land
That defied development
A steep drop into that narrow ravine
Beyond the power of any man’s mower.
Why did I ever think it worthwhile to skinny through all of that, just to see that measly trickle
except that when I entered that vale I vanished from the world.
There were no fish, not even a minnow, though I searched every puddle and suspected that the older boys might have known something I didn’t; might have gone farther and found a secret place.
We younger boys gave names to the biggest rocks. I found this under the skillet rock. Me and Rex turned over the grand-dad rock. Didn’t find nothin’.
When I remembered, I brought a coffee can with me. Red Folgers with a dangerously sharp rim. I put in moss, leaves and sticks and half an inch of water and there I kept my prizes: crawfish, the salamanders we called lizards and now and then some strange, eyeless creature that no one could name.
Once it rained very hard for a long time and I waited, wondering.
Alright, you can go out now, but you take those boots off on the porch. I don’t want you dragging mud into this house.
I ran across the soggy lawn to my tunnel through the brush and weeds. Halfway down the ravine, I heard the laughter of the rising water.
Across the way
the fat, brown milk
pulled at the trunks of the ragweed
pulling one stem down
then releasing it
pulse after pulse
like the arm of a metronome.
I stood there and surveyed the wonder, satisfied. I thought,
like the once starved and now accepted lover,
I always knew it could be this way.
I forgot my boundaries and pushed down the stream
over logs and stones and,
doing the forbidden,
wading the torrent where necessary
until I was out of that hollow an onto a broad back lawn
that I had never seen before
now a brown lake
big enough for a canoe.