Several summers ago, waiting for a mayfly hatch, I was reading a collection of Jim Harrisonʼs poems and started writing notes to him in the margins. I have known Jim and have read his poems for decades. I return to them again and again, much as you would a sacred text, though that seems a bit inflated. I recall, to the very day, I first picked up his work in 1970, and thought then as I do now, that he was writing directly to me and into me. He remains, one of the few American writers who manages to unleash whatever it is that resides in me to help me see the world differently, and I hope more clearly. These notes to Jim are simply that…notes translated into prose poems that would fit on a postcard. “I want to die in the saddle, an enemy of civilization/want to walk around in the woods, fish and drink”. Indeed.
From todayʼs reading: “Missippian Indians of the Cumberland Plateau believed that fish and birds can permeate the barriers separating the three layers of the universe.”
Meanwhile, Iʼm flailing through just one layer, this one, where the heart pumps a fierce juice. Why else would guys like Berryman take a leap into freezing water? Itʼs the end of summer, everyone is leaving. The annual migration of those with money now heads into the wilds of South American where they have bought land over aquifers, their gleaming teeth lighting the way through the jungles they have made of themselves. Up here, on this ground, I mourn the loss of millions of buffalo, the wolves shot down in pastures out West, while nearby, what bears still live in these woods tremble at the sound of jet skis, and fireworks. I need desperately for a Chilean mine style rescue straight out of the sky, some god up their turning the winch of what he thinks is a well bucket, only to find this shrunken head drowning in its last cup of water.
From you: “The kestrel has a curious ability to perceive ultraviolet light with a four
dimensional color vision system which enables it to see iridescent urine trails that voles leave in the grass…thus the bird is better able to pursue them.”
I have no honest idea what Iʼm trailing behind myself: 66 years of exhaust, all the poems that never quite caught fire, and that image I have of you of the inside of your head smoldering like an ancient signal fire. I know there is something out there,, the opposite of any kind of muse, I long ago perceived with talons harboring the force of wrecking balls homing in on whatʼs left of my head. But to you I offer this: no fear. Iʼd go prone, hit the ground in love with that fierce whistling monster Kestrel coming in, lifting me off the earth, nothing left but a trail of busted books, thin volumes reduced to paste under her beak.
Originally published in the April 2015 issue.