All but perverse to slide the canoe
onto Little River in late October.
Wet wind rushed sideways and brought a scent
I’d soon enough come to think of as boding
snow once my winter senses came back.
Often you do things simply because
you always did. So it was that day
last fall. I had no mission—that is,
none I knew until I knew it.
Five mallards flushed from reeds with a clatter,
but the ducks weren’t it—whatever it proved.
I envisioned the bed of coals that would wink
through the plates of mica in my woodstove’s door—
woodstove I used when I was young
and efficiency didn’t concern me whatever:
to put up ten cords felt like recreation.
Be still and know that I am God
is a passage from Psalm 46 I’ve cherished.
But the current didn’t want me still,
and the scurrying clouds didn’t want that either.
So I thought, in my lust to posit design,
and to find myself at its very center.
I shrugged such a vanity away,
for the river as ever was just a river,
the clouds remained no more than clouds,
and I still only I. And yet,
having skirted an eddy that formed at a bend,
I drifted onto a flat that—wonder!—
appeared to be altogether unruffled,
and all around me on either shore
and stretching clear to the bordering alders,
stood bush after bush of winterberry,
for whose sheen the word red feels simply impoverished,
its radiance all the more striking because
of the gray into which I had launched, unwitting.