Monday’s Light Through the Window (final)

Old glass, drooping with the passage of years,

Where cobwebs hold fast in corners, collecting dust,

Passing slanted light across a worn table,

Holding the kitchen in a spell.

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Barely Spring, and the light, now past seven,

Tells of long, nappy afternoons, old summers.

And life-gone-easy moments.

A steady glow reviving old bowls to colorful pasts,

Meals cook perfect here, timed to the clink of fork on plate,

Savory previews where shadows suddenly fell away.

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This is light that shines through times,

Only possibly happened then, or yet to come,

Illusory memories perhaps, or vague hopes.

Regardless of how these things wrap into one,

This is the luminous clutch of that familiar patience,

We all longed for through chilled and terse days.

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This is when the old apron, hanging from a hook,

Illumed stains of tomato, crumb and berry pies,

Rendezvous of life and light,

Reflects stories of people,

Moving,

Living.

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Latest afternoon now,

A creaky floor plank hosting swirled grain,

Where old men gather, smoke and revel in stories,

Lies, really, but laughed around,

Told a hundred times, and still,

Smoothed along springtime’s gentle contours

Waiting to be explored anew.

Monday’s Light Through the Window

An afternoon sun casts through the window:

Old cobwebs held fast in corners, gathering dust,

Slanted light cast across the worn table,

Holding the kitchen in a spell.

                                      .

Barely Spring, and the light, now past seven,

Tells of long, nappy afternoons and old summers.

This is a life-gone-easy moment.

A steady glow reviving old bowls to colorful pasts,

Meals cook perfect here, timed to the clink of fork on plate,

Savory previews where shadows fell away.

 .

This is light that shines through time,

Stretches far across it, into places, thoughts or moods,

That maybe never happened, or have yet to come,

Illusory memories then, or vague hopes.

Regardless of how these things wrap into one,

This is the luminous clutch of that familiar patience,

We all longed for through chilled and terse days.

.

This is when the old  apron, hanging from a hook,

Illumed now in constellations of dust,

Stained in pie, tomato and crumb, a rendezvous of life and light,

Reflecting stories of people,

Moving,

Living.

.

Latest afternoon, a creaky plank hosting swirled grain,

Where old men gather , smoke and revel in stories,

Lies, really, but laughed around,

Told a hundred times, and still,

Contours of a day waiting to be explored anew.

Late January Water Patterns

Usually, it never starts with a dream

The dream meticulously sculpted into an expectation

So perfect that the cries of ecstasy roar along the river

Erasing any hope of stillness that might have been there

Had nothing ever been imagined in the first place.

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Hmmmph

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Usually it never starts with that first sight

That look into perfection that never was dreamt any better

Better than last time, but only to be washed away

With enthusiasm misplaced and gone awry

In manic flailings trying to capture it all in one fell swoop.

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Ohhhhh

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Sometimes, admittedly, it might start with a splash of apathy

Because it has to be done and here we are

And along the way it becomes the next dream

And the perfection reveals itself in little debates

Comparing this to that and wondering if this is even better.

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Oooooohhhhh

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Always, though, a script unfolds, eluding time’s wicked arrow

Bathed in a moment eluding any grasp of perfection

Surrounded by silent calls and responses each asking nothing

Together, creating the pulsing song of a mid-winter river.

In the Yard One Day

A long fence, separates angst from hope.

Where luminous spiders,

Fresh from the sea

Lacquer their bodies

In the sticky webs of her gaze.

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Eyes fixed on the rainy places

Hastened under sun,

Mired in the tired longings,

Indifference: the way things

Could have been.

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A sorrowful state now,

Lashing out in laughter,

Swatting at the great green globes,

Floating upwards from time’s unwinding

Through air torn with tight-faced frustration.

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The simple turn of book

Written chapter and verse,

Words of school time practice,

And playground tauntings.

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The single place where a long fence,

Shadowed by impatience,

Is shot full of holes,

Where pieces of home,

Come and go as shiny bits

In the spring time air.

The Backyard of the House on Rose Lane (another hasty draft)

For three days in spring,

a corner of the yard

framed by young berry canes

vibrant green, a coastal lushness

That will last into July here.

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not three days in a row,

and maybe not three days,

but pieces, hours,

like the 30 minutes she sat

in still afternoon sun,

listening to winter dispel.

.

And when it all came together,

a warm air, heavy with grass,

Stained with new berry growth

Smelling like last year,

And the year before

All the way back to her childhood.

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And, for a moment,

A connected-to-everything moment

She would lose sight of the back door,

Sitting ajar,

Letting out some bits of late afternoon

television nonsense

Into the wafting green air.

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that corner

where the fence ducks behind,

and under the old window

where the laundry has always been

and where, each year,

about this time,

the grass and berries

rise up to consume her

where she sits

for three days each spring

Intermission

As Jupiter sharpens the night sky,

The blue light unfolding from her cocoon,

And the rest of a thousand years,

The wait,

Now ending.

Find her past the moonlit field,

Striding with the beat of raindrops, wind

And the cast off greed a long night in velvet

Will surely wreak in the soiled heavens

Of a dry field known cold and snippety crisp.

Drought

The pace of mornings might seem slow,

Or pass quickly,

It does not matter if the river is loud,

Or passing out the soft gestures of frog water

Gone chilled and clear.

.

So that rivers might fill.

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Right when morning comes to light,

that’s when the sun,

In a desperate attempt to push into the day

Fails, falling back into the clutch of evening,

Or morning,

Depending on the pace of it all.

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Autumn now turned cold and brief.

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Call it empty, quiet or lonely,

Dictated, in part, by the light

Pinning afternoon into one single moment

Of a day that cannot linger here.

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Summer’s sway long gone.

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Each time, like the call home

From a forgotten lover never met:

This time of shadowed rock,

And snowy alcoves,

We come here again.

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Waiting for the rain.

The Bell Tolls September

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I hadn’t contemplated the distinction between habit, ritual and obsession until now. A stubborn low pressure system parked off the west coast at the end of August sends waves of warm, humid air across the coast, raises goosebumps among the tuna fishermen, but plunges the interior into an unsettled, wavering weather pattern that will surely confuse any fresh steelhead enough to ignore any of my offerings. Afternoon winds wander through the gorge without purpose, and continue to swirl about at sunset somehow dispelling that all-too-short witching hour moment before it all fades into inky blackness amongst frog choirs lathered in waves of crickets and sprinkled with the sounds of splashing fish.

It didn’t happen last night or tonight.

Leave the coast with a stoic confidence that it’s all an easy game of fetch and return home with the resolve that tomorrow will be different.

Habit? Ritual? Obsession?

Before the Fish

In early August, the slight wrinkle on his brow,

Pushes sweat into long dusty piles,

Rows of summer’s habits.

Like the year before last

and the year before that.

His is the furled brow of finally remembering.

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While her eyes, sometime gone askance,

Sagging with days gone long and

Now stale afternoon romance,

Still sparkle,

Like the playground at recess,

When the laughter carries

To those still inside.

Her glance is long and turning,

Letting go of a breath.

.

In a matter of weeks,

fixed on bright sky,

That precious harbinger of hope,

And the only window left,

They will cue up old records,

rehearse the dances,

Recall the words,

And sit, waiting.

Five Days

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Day 4: The platform at the bow of the boat has become a dance floor and my casts are honed and polished, perhaps like a baseball pitcher in mid-game stride: dialed in and dealing.

Near highest tide, late morning, a trio of fish round the point, cruising a now familiar avenue that routes them up onto the flats for finicky, frenetic lunchtime eating. They are shouldery permit, double digit fish with the black sickles of their tails sometimes shivering above the water’s surface as they come up into the shallow water and gain full show over white coral sands. The cast lands squarely ahead of their path and a hushed “Sweet!” from captain Oliver. The crab flutters down to rest before a short, slow strip to imitate fleeing prey. The fish swim unbothered onwards and a second strike to the trio is met again with no interest. Day four plays out with Oliver’s gentle admonition, “It’s crunch time, mon.” Let’s get a fish. Later that night Oliver would replay the scenario to his brother: spot-on casts to refractory fish. And I would joke “the best we can do is make the best cast to them because they probably won’t eat it anyhow.”

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In my mind, I script out the proud honor of five days in southern Belize and no fish to show for it. The first day jitters, out-of-practice fish spotting, leading to a shot at an unseen fish, guided only by Oliver’s “Eleven o’clock sixty feet. Just cast!” followed by “Perfect! Streep, streep” and ending with a tail, grab and a tippet breaking like thread – some unseen knick in the line ended the game on day one before it was even started. Later there would be the follows and Oliver’s reassuring “Sweet, mon! This is it! Streep…. he’s on it…” only to turn away uninterested, or spooked- jumbo fish grubbing headlong into turtle grass, tails glistening in the sun, that spook at the flash of line in air, or the sweep of arm as a long backcast loads up for a precision delivery to the boil of a fish long gone.

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Dinners pass with small time chit chat and feeble attempts at comparing life in this small town with life in my own small town. The fishing is measured up against winter steelhead fly fishing where success is celebrated one hard-earned fish at a time and fishless days are part of the deal. Despite the lack of fish, adverse weather, and a string of frustrations, we can’t wait to get up and do it all over again. Tempering the challenge is a succession of fresh grilled snook, fried conch, plantains and shrimp filling our bellies at night while cool melon and salsa infused burritos beckon afternoon naps. But we press on through the days, each day bringing up a fish-friendly high tide late morning followed by intense afternoon winds that demand everything from simply staying afoot on the bow of the boat to unloading long shots headfirst into the wind at fish quickly seen in the trough of the wind-driven waves ripping across the flats.

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This is all-consuming fishing. Fish seem to appear when thoughts drift to what might be happening back home, or whether my handkerchief is adequately covering the back of my neck in the hot afternoon sun. And, so the hours pass intently staring across the coral flats, studying textures, guessing depths, discerning shapes and sometimes catching the fleeting glimpse of permit only after it is too late and the boat it too close for a decent shot. There is no time for replaying the past or scripting the future. Everything is happening right now and the applicable universe encompasses a radius of approximately 100 feet off the front half of the boat. Add a little wind and everything moves and enchants, like the call of siren diverting us from the empty gaze we strive for. You either see it or you don’t. There is no time for study here.

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Early afternoon day 2: A robust permit pushing 20 pounds works diligently around a large head of coral, it’s shuddering tail visible from far off – one of the few times to get set up, size up and contemplate the cast. Better yet, it works a small area around the coral and there’s even a moment to breathe as Oliver poles the boat into casting range.

“Sweet mon!” The cast lands to the side with a small “plop,” catching the fish’s attention immediately, as the crab lands on bottom the fish tips down and inhales the crab fly. I pull the line taught to drive the hook home just as the fish turns and heads around the backside of the coral, breaking the line like a spider web. Game over.

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Day 3 dawns to thunderstorms and heavy rain and we head out under dark skies and flat, glassy waters as the rain tails off to the east. Under the slate grey skies, underwater visibility is tough and we look far across the flats hoping for tails to give away the presence of fish. Finally, by early afternoon, the clouds give way to the great aquarium that sunshine and windless conditions allow for. Fish are now easily spooked as we can see them at great distances underwater, but so, too can they see us – a few follows and many more spooked. The fishless trip begins to script itself out after day 3. How would I pitch this to friends? I knew I had the fortitude to laugh about it and not be deterred, but would they understand? Would they really get that this was only partly about catching fish? Would they understand the presence, focus and tenacity this requires? Worse yet, would they understand this really is how some people choose to unwind and relax? I begin to second guess the whole thing as the boat glides over a pair of fish happily grazing over knee-deep flats, me missing them entirely in my moment of day dreaming delerium. It’s uncanny how these fish can appear when you’re momentarily somewhere else.

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Day 5 comes around as routine and rehearsed. I’ve gotten a sense of the flats, how the fish are moving across them, where they come from, and where to focus my gaze. We quickly bounce between a half dozen flats seemingly empty of fish, but early on a tide that will come mid-afternoon now. By late morning, a well rehearsed routine between guide and angler, spotting and casting has shown a dime-sized crab fly to five uninterested permit. Oh sure, maybe there was a brief moment of interest, but at this point, it was all meaningless: nothing to the boat. Oliver reminds me half serious “It’s the eleventh hour, mon,” and, after a long pause, “no pressure though.”

At 11:30 we round the point to begin the pole down a long narrow and now familiar windward flat. The afternoon breeze is beginning its routine and within an hour the ante will kick up several notches as wind, sun angle and footing will combine mental challenge with physical rigor for a final, demanding afternoon. As we round the point the tails are there. A group of small permit feeds aggressively up the flat, heading towards the boat. They move quickly and there will be time for only one cast before they see the boat and bolt. The crab lands short but online and the fish approach rapidly. Whether they see the boat first or the crab will be a toss-up. I crouch low on the bow as I slowly strip the fly. I see one of the fish pounce ahead, tip, tail and grab the crab. FISH ON!

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Five days and one hard-earned fish.

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