Richard Brautigan

(January 30, 1935 – September 14, 1984 / Tacoma, Washington)

The Lake Josephus Days - Poem by Richard Brautigan

We left Little Redfish for Lake Josephus, traveling along the good names — from Stanley to Capehorn to Seafoam to the Rapid River, up Float Creek, past the Greyhound Mine and then to Lake Josephus, and a few days after that up the trail to Hell-diver Lake with the baby on my shoulders and a good limit of trout waiting in Hell-diver.

Knowing the trout would wait there like airplane tickets for us to come, we stopped at Mushroom Springs and had a drink of cold shadowy water and some photographs taken of the baby and me sitting together on a log.

I hope someday we'll have enough money to get those pictures developed. Sometimes I get curious about them, wondering if they will turn out all right. They are in suspension now like seeds in a package. I'll be older when they are developed and easier to please. Look there's the baby! Look there's Mushroom Springs! Look there's me!

I caught the limit of trout within an hour of reaching Hell-diver, and my woman, in all the excitement of good fishing, let the baby fall asleep directly in the sun and when the baby woke up, she puked and I carried her back down the trail.

My woman trailed silently behind, carrying the rods and the fish. The baby puked a couple more times, thimblefuls of gentle lavender vomit, but still it got on my clothes, and her face was hot and flushed.

We stopped at Mushroom Springs. I gave her a small drink of water, not too much, and rinsed the vomit taste out of her mouth. Then I wiped the puke off my clothes and for some strange reason suddenly it was a perfect time, there at Mushroom Springs, to wonder whatever happened to the Zoot suit.

Along with World War II and the Andrews Sisters, the Zoot suit had been very popular in the early 40s. I guess they were all just passing fads.

A sick baby on the trail down from Hell-diver, July 1961, is probably a more important question. It cannot be left to go on forever, a sick baby to take her place in the galaxy, among the comets, bound to pass close to the earth every 173 years.

She stopped puking after Mushroom Springs, and I carried her back down along the path in and out of the shadows and across other nameless springs, and by the time we got down to Lake Josephus, she was all right.

She was soon running around with a big cutthroat trout in her hands, carrying it like a harp on her way to a concert — ten minutes late with no bus in sight and no taxi either.


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Poem Submitted: Monday, January 30, 2012



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