I tell my father "On our way to the lake,
Uncle John stopped and bought lightning
in a jar from a colored man in Opalaca"
and when he tells me "Alright, then" his face
folds in and tightens and I see him under
the bowed silver birch with leaders in his hands,
their transparent ends knotted with tiny
brass hooks and bright blue and yellow feathers;
the brim of his Redman hat hiding his brow
from the high August sun.
He looks like a photograph I saw once
of a man tying flies beneath the lace-hung
arms of river cypress; but I took no photograph,
because on this day, under that tree,
beneath that sun and in these bones my hands
would not have known where to point or what to take
for the sake of memory; in this place I am twelve.
There is a dog at my feet, or asleep on the steps,
two gunmetal cats watch a family of robins preen
in the shade of eaves; their heads sway in a strange,
imperfect rhythm. The women behind the screened door,
lovely in waisted aprons, are from another time;
a disconnected past that doesn't belong here.
I would give it up to the fireflies, to the cicadas
that sang beneath the bark of digger pines, leaving
shells of themselves behind for fall to find.
I have left it to the black-hulled pecans, to blackberries
strung along a border fence, to the big stones braced
at the bend of the river where beavers built dams
large enough to widen the turn a little every year;
both grown so much smaller now.
I remember, him and I, collapsing here;
once upon a summer knee to knee, a stolen blanket,
a rainbow-heavy creel set to soak against a bank.
Beyond sloped banks, years away, ladies sit behind screens
and fan themselves with their hems, dogs nap,
cats court the notice of birds long flown to dust.
These cypress dripping moss, this river,
those voiceless days with nothing left unsaid.
On this day, in this skin, I am twelve,
and you a shadow beneath the brim of a hat;
a foreknowledge of flyting days,
a fretwork caught in the blue of our veins.
Miles, millenniums, lightning in a jar.