Galway Kinnell

(1 February 1927 / Providence, Rhode Island)

Fergus Falling


He climbed to the top
of one of those million white pines
set out across the emptying pastures
of the fifties - some program to enrich the rich
and rebuke the forefathers
who cleared it all at once with ox and axe -
climbed to the top, probably to get out
of the shadow
not of those forefathers but of this father
and saw for the first time
down in its valley, Bruce Pond, giving off
its little steam in the afternoon,

pond where Clarence Akley came on Sunday mornings to cut down
the cedars around the shore, I'd sometimes hear the slow spondees
of his work, he's gone,
where Milton Norway came up behind me while I was fishing and
stood awhile before I knew he was there, he's the one who put the
cedar shingles on the house, some have curled or split, a few have
blown off, he's gone,
where Gus Newland logged in the cold snap of '58, the only man will-
ing to go into those woods that never got warmer than ten below,
he's gone,
pond where two wards of hte state wandered on Halloween, the Na-
tional Guard searched for them in November, in vain, the next fall a
hunter found their skeletons huddled together, in vain, they're
gone,
pond where an old fisherman in a rowboat sits, drowning hooked
worms, when he goes he's replaced and is never gone,

and when Fergus
saw the pond for the first time
in the clear evening, saw its oldness down there
in its old place in the valley, he became heavier suddenly
in his bones
the way fledglings do just before they fly,
and the soft pine cracked.

I would not have heard his cry
if my electric saw had been working,
its carbide teeth speeding through the bland spruce of our time, or
burning
black arcs into some scavenged hemlock plank,
like dark circles under eyes
when the brain thinks too close to the skin,
but I was sawing by hand and I heard that cry
as though he were attacked; we ran out,
when we bent over him he said, "Galway, Inés, I saw a pond!"
His face went gray, his eyes fluttered close a frightening
moment.

Yes - a pond
that lets off its mist
on clear afternoons of August, in that valley
to which many have come, for their reasons,
from which many have gone, a few for their reasons, most not,
where even now and old fisherman only the pinetops can see
sits in the dry gray wood of his rowboat, waiting for pickerel.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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