Tomorrow is May Day, which always brings to mind spring and summer and the things that I like to do when the weather is fair. My first thought was that I would love to be floating down Elk River on an inner-tube watching nature slide by quietly as I drifted along. So just for a whim I looked for a good poem about floating downstream on an inner-tube. Surprisingly, there are some inner-tube poems lurking in cyberspace, but none that really caught my attention. Next I thought about camping and campfires, but again failed to find anything that spoke to me.
Finally I thought about fishing. I'm not much of a fisherman, but when I was young I lived on the river and really enjoyed messing with the sun perch who called the Elk River home. I would catch and release the same orange and blue fish multiple times in the same day. I had a great time, and the fish were well fed in the process. And then I thought about a time or two that I went fishing at night and how calm and peaceful that was.
All of which led me to google "fishing at night poetry" which produced a wonderful piece entitled "Nightfishing" by Gjertrud Schnackenberg. "Nightfishing" involves an older couple fishing on a lake at night, but it is basically the story of loving someone through the separation of death - not exactly what I was looking for, but so good that I want to share it.
by Gjertrud Schnackenberg
The kitchen's old-fashioned planter's clock portrays
A smiling moon as it dips down below
Two hemispheres, stars numberless as days,
And peas, tomatoes, onions, as they grow
Under that happy sky; but though the sands
Of time put on this vegetable disguise,
The clock covers its face with long, thin hands.
Another smiling moon begins to rise.
We drift in the small rowboat an hour before
Morning begins, the lake weeds grown so long
They touch the surface, tangling in an oar.
You've brought coffee, cigars, and me along.
You sit still, like a monument in a hall,
Watching for trout. A bat slices the air
Near us, I shriek, you look at me, that's all,
One long sobering look, a smile everywhere
But on your mouth. The mighty hills shriek back.
You turn back to the hake, chuckle, and clamp
Your teeth on your cigar. We watch the black
Water together. Our tennis shoes are damp.
Something moves on your thoughtful face, recedes.
Here, for the first time ever, I see how,
Just as a fish lurks deep in water weeds,
A thought of death will lurk deep down, will show
One eye, then quietly disappear in you.
It's time to go. Above the hills I see
The faint moon slowly dipping out of view,
Sea of Tranquillity, Sea of Serenity,
Ocean of Storms...You start to row, the boat
Skimming the lake where light begins to spread.
You stop the oars, midair. We twirl and float.
I'm in the kitchen. You are three days dead.
A smiling moon rises on fertile ground,
White stars and vegetables. The sky is blue.
Clock hands sweep by it all, they twirl around,
Pushing me, oarless, from the shore of you.