In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
and mountains of the Mexican border
I’ve followed the calls of birds
that don’t exist into thickets
and up canyons. I’m unsure
if all of me returned.
– Jim Harrison (“Suite of Unreason”)
At a flatland fundraiser,
a young man remembers stories
of his father and I
that never happened—
revels in his glass
like dismembered parchment,
piecing the unfurled
fragments from other scrolls
that float in his mind
as heroic ideals to aspire to.
we ride above the lake to gather,
we look down as horses blow
to trace where the Kaweah ran
point to familiar family names
living along the river before its wide,
slow turn into sand flats hemmed
with cattails around the mouth
of Greasy Creek, before the big holes
of rock and water under the earthen dam
where natives swam, spearing huge carp
to dry and haul up Dry Creek to Eshom
in a cart, Loren, as a boy, riding upon them
and why he never learned to swim.
what we remember of the river rises
as if they never left.
I do not crave to travel, to leave
these places, or make new history
elsewhere—with tracks enough
chasing bird songs here at home,
always with the hope that storms
will wash deep ruts from memory.
Everyday an adventure, playing
with coincidence, watching
arbitrary time light upon a branch—
each small part of me I leave behind
like ash and dust you’ll never see
is a lifetime spread over acres of ranch.