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Spirits

From: Sewanee Review
Volume 121, Number 4, Fall 2013
pp. 536-540 | 10.1353/sew.2013.0111

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Crossing Spirit Lake in Early Winter

Eyes burning. The slashing snow.
Since dusk a gale had swept
the frozen lake—snow drifted
underfoot—our boots slipped.
Night left but the thin light
of glazed ice or none at all.
"Stay close!" we warned. Most gripped
hands. Or linked arms. Only
our boldest—those few—broke
free. While they fled across
new ice we heard that first
crack! Another. The third
like a distant lightning
strike. But no more. How far
had they gone? When the windblown
snow settled we found
no trace. Then all the living
witnessed an apparition:
Every face luminous
with its fever—the brief
haste of a flare until
it faded before us. Yes,
and the pulse in each voice—
how their souls urged us not
to lose heart. As we pushed
on we cried out their names
over the snow-scrim and bare
ice. No distinct trail to track.
Finally, "Are you there?"
we pleaded. Searching, slow
step by step through the dark.

Lines at 2 A.M. on the Sea of Cortez

The bright morning brought its mirage—
The far shore and one shadow-free
inlet loomed before us. Until
Two gulls swooped across our deckhouse.
That pair rising with a single shriek
into the sudden overcast.
Then it was dusk all day. Humid,
warm, the sullen light of a low sky.

When evening arrived without stars
we saw the vast gulf grow formless—
Brackish tide pools, coves, a pocked reef

and each white beach slipped out of sight
with the sea snakes. Old turtles, all
but blind, cleaving dense clouds of silt.

The swarming crabs, hammerhead sharks,
swordfish, prowling rays. The nearly
level sea itself invisible . . .

Our boat bobs among shallow troughs,
horse-like, irritable before
the worst weather. In water quiet
but not at rest—the sleepless stir
of a tense calm. Now blue-black clouds
quake with storm light, and we know
this night has a life of its own,
we hear it breathing in the dark.

In Wind and Rain

Crossing the high meadow above Wolf River
the wind deepens the waves of tall grass
bowing beneath it. Two blackbirds startled
into flight complain zeeer! zeeer! Magpies row
over the sweet clover and the day glows
as it darkens. A fresh scent fills the air.
When rain arrives the pelting drops rattle
each patch of dry nettles. A searching rain
takes the shape of everything it touches:
nests, nettles, weathered outcrop, seething
grass. The wind sweeps headlong down to the brim
of the meadow where a footpath glimmers,
already mud-slick, sluiced by onrushing
rain. At dusk the wind stalls, hovers. Withholds
itself. Gathering not time, which it scatters,
but eternity in a storm of leaves—
the one large-limbed tree towering over
the fence, the black iron gate flung open
to our hillside cemetery. The gale grasps,
wrenches loose, tilts, uproots the ancient
memorial elm. It lays the quivering
canopy, crushed boughs, and that great trunk,
its rough-ridged bark black with wet, prone
among the graves. All night scouring white pine
crosses, stone tablets, urns, rainwater pools
then welters. Once the runoff starts the elm
plummets the slope, plunging into Wolf River,
its turbulent current rushing downstream
with the low urgent roaring that persists
in wind and rain. Together now they drive
the river. Writhing, churning, it never rests.

The Angel of Solitude

At daybreak I knelt by the shallows.
   Ripples nudged the skiff—pine green
      paint worn thin from knocking

against our pier. One dead
   loon drifted ashore
      overnight—we'll bury

the remains this morning.
   You're here, spirit, silent
      as ever while you gather

to yourself the shrill squall
   of the young gull wading out
      from the sedge grass. High-stepping

over a broken oarlock,
   driftwood, damp stones.
      He quiets now. Moves on

as I walk onto the pier. Minnows
   dart, disappear among cedar
      pilings sunk into bedrock

of the spring-fed lake. Its deep
   current flowing through
      finger-long fronds, tendrils.

In that dim filtered light lie
   cloud-colored bones delicate
      as feathers. Hunters' shell

casings. Once the gull reaches
   mid-water he perches
      on the buoy bobbing

in a low wind. The world
   within...



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