G. Louis Heath
A Boy in the Family Orchard
I roam through my family’s orchard, lost
In random thoughts that fly with bees and
Fruit flies. As I walk the bountiful lanes of
Peaches, the trees dapple images in filigree
At my bare, aimless feet. My mind conjures
A shape from each shadow as I walk the lanes
Of fruit. A dish of ice cream soothes. An auto
Wreck terrifies. A favorite teacher makes me
Smile. It goes on like this. Dark scenes stalk
Bright ones as the shadows shape-shift tree to
Tree. I decode the pictures in the soil until my
Mother calls me in to dinner from my reveries.
On the Far Shore
Outside my cottage, the lake is stiff as steel. Fog rises,
A milky, evanescent scrim over the harsh vista of ice.
It is by far, by far, no place for me, but it must be, I can see.
Through roiling, tantalizing fingers of shape-shifting fog,
A lonely birch flanks a solitary figure in white, a tall man
Unknown to me. I know what he wants. He knows me.
Quick as a squirrel, I flick on my crampons and trek the
Brute ice. I know he will welcome me, my stark deity by
The shore. He may be just a shadow in the fog but today I
Must know he is not just one more birch on the far shore, so
Close to home but so far. My breath parachutes a cloud of
Fine glitter before me, but I do not care. Ice makes me free.
On the Wayward Path
The limestone bluff bulged into the sky as I
Walked the creek below. The white-wine light
Of the risen moon etched a subtle pattern on
The trail into the woods where the moon winked
Between boulders and stands of birch and poplar.
I was feeling lost, or just out of sorts. Maybe it
Was the cold or the ice-crystal moon. From the
Shadows just ahead, a new shadow emerged, its
Plumed breath a smoky, shimmering dialogue
Balloon, bound to burst upon me. Maybe a big
Moment in time for me, a message preternatural,
A profound turning point. My wayward, cold feet
Froze in place as I discerned the moose just ahead.
It stood for the longest time, eyeing me, taking my
Measure. I looked straight at him, as best I could,
Man to moose, for the millennia. I shall never ever
Forget those few seconds in the shadows where time
Stood still for me, till that moose spoke and moved on.
Man in the River
I found his body in a river shallows, mutilated,
The head cut off. The police arrived just before
Three p.m. to cordon off the scene and begin
Their investigation. I riveted my attention on carp
And minnows nibbling the wounds while birds of
Prey wheeled above. Nature had begun to work
Its ways, ways we would interrupt. To witness
Another human, even one unknown, defiled to
Mangled carrion, headless, floating, wrecked the
Veneer of normality that smooths my days. There
The fictions that ruled my life did not work. I
Wondered how to fit the horror into my view of
Humankind. One of our so-called human family
Wrought this upon this nameless man. I recall
The utter stillness of that hot summer day that
Brought a wave of flies to the bloated corpse.
The scene before me was not still, but it had to
Be for me, by which I mean the slowest slow
Motion I could unreel. I could begin to handle that
Kind of slow, like maybe I could slow time, throw
It in reverse, bring this man back to life, make it
All all right again. But I could not. Despite the
Carnage, I continue on as flesh and blood with a
Mind that must not deny forever. I must accept
That this bad thing that happened has happened.
The bower of death arches over me, all of us,
All the time, in every valley, on every plain and
Prairie, on every mountain, in sea and sky, on all
The highways and byways, in city, town, and
Village, in every river, and in that river of death.
I will pray for this victim who met this violent, grisly
End. I will do what I can, whatever that may be, but
As much as I can, to prevent future mayhem. And I
Will carry on as flesh and blood, forever changed.