How Modern a Creek, Then?
The boy, careful to lay the rifle down,
looking in the bed of copper leaves, layered upon layer, for signs of a snake for which the rifle was carried, then leaning in, belly on the leaves, as the creek, here only a foot wide, cuts deep between roots of an unseen tree, the water, clear and icy, even summer, for water insects, for gold, for the magical cases built by Caddisflies. Satisfied in searching, he eases his boots off, and stuffs a sock in top of each.
Stepping in, ever looking for snakes almost never there, wades down root steps to a sandy basin. The creek divides around a soggy sand bar. The sand is pebbles, not sand. he sits, soaking his pants, and watches, scanning to the end where the creek runs together again. Boots and rifle, ten yards up. He dries his feet on leaves, not looking for snakes, buffs his dry-ish, sandy-ish feet top and bottom with his sock, then shakes and puts on the sock, and boot.
cheap boot, damp sock and bits of pebble irritate his feet. He stands, picks up the rifle, keeping the barrel pointed away, and down. Home. This is where and how he goes to the creek. Almost every day, alone. Sometimes with his cousins, who build and break dams. He never builds dams.
The why he comes, not even he,
not even now, knows that.
A fellow student in ModPo’s summer courses that we collectively call SloPo, wondered if certain poets from Frost to Ashbery used the pastoral scene as a device t deal with the problems of modern life. So I wrote the above piece to explore my own motivations. This is what I consider a typical piece for me. A snapshot of a world gone by, specifically, my world gone by. I did not write it with any particular clever intent.
Another student pointed out the boy’s preoccupation with the POSSIBILITY of a snake, though one is never found. Is the snake old, like in the garden of Eden, or is it modern? is the serpent always both the ancient and the modern, the fear, the irrational fear of things which rarely or never happen, shark attacks, terror attacks, death (which only happens once, yet some of us build our lives in response to it!
I hope you enjoyed reading this poem. I hope you enjoy, even more, thinking about these things. and most of all, I hope you respond here and share your thoughts. You do not have to have an advanced degree in a liberal arts area of specialization. if you dropped out of third grade or if you are an ivy league professor, your thoughts are equally welcome.