10 December 2009 | Vol. 9, No. 4
Empty pail of water.
The men in their ghost shirts before dawn.
Sunset swallowed like a snake's body
working on a smaller animal. River making the best of it.
You can see where garbage eddies in the shallows,
raccoon prints eroding from the silty banks.
Where daffodils framed the well house though the well house is gone.
All the birds recall their names in the shadows.
In town, the church bells toll backwards.
Soon the spindly plums dormant for winter stretch their wild branches.
Wasps hovering over fallen fruit
swim back to their paper nests. Pupae sip their nectar.
Fruit fleshes back to ripe, then green,
then blossoms swarmed by bees. The sun slips back
under the eastern horizon.
The men put on fish scale suits and stalk the riverbanks,
looking again and again over their shoulders,
beneath the soles of their feet.
They are studying bones. They are drawing lots.
They are observing patterns in the flight of birds.
They are rereading their diaries,
and the diaries of their wives and children. They are reading
last year's newspapers not yet used as kindling.
Each is carrying a pail,
scooping sleeping water up from the reedy shallows,
shining a light into the bottom of the bucket
to watch the movement of minnows,
alert for any darting, sudden letters traced in the water,
their fish scales iridescent
in the day's last light.
At dawn they will gather by the well house to interpret their findings.