In Idaho I’m standing along Kelly Creek in a valley where one side is a lush coastal
disjunct rainforest; flora that grew when this was sea-side long before the Cascades
came and pushed these mountains inland; and the other was burnt seven or eight
years ago (bare fields of tall grass with fresh groves of aspen dotting ridges
and dark carcasses of big cedar along the edge where fire grew hottest
before petering out at the road and river) reading a Forest Service sign
that says “Whitefish may be reduced to possession” and I’m hoping to
catch one just to marvel at its scales and feel it slide across my palms
back into its home waters because if it doesn’t belong here then surely
I don’t and what about the seeds of invasive plants that will blow off
these ATVs and spread along these open slopes and grow and never
be eradicated but instead will become thick and unwieldy and yet these
whitefish that have lived in these waters for as long as the westslope cutthroat
trout that must be released and only caught using single, barbless hooks may be
simply reduced to possession and so I start casting which is just another way for me
to try to hold something from this world and I wonder if being held by something
is also to be possessed or haunted by it or maybe it means death in some way,
a loss of autonomy, like being held by the ground completely, yes, but also an embrace
is a form of holding which is not a death or an owning or a taking-over of spirit,
no, so maybe holding is something our bodies do and possessing is something
our thoughts do and maybe to be possessed is simply to be in reciprocation
to something you cannot name like how the water moves slightly
whenever my fly lands without ever knowing the names
for hook or wind or feather and oh!
there’s a hawk leaving a cloud and oh!
something just nudged the surface and oh!
how words shift meaning so I keep casting, trying to think like the water
but then I come back to it and what if all we’ve held is all we are or maybe
we are always holding and being held, possessing and possessed,
a world full of embraces that sometime end
in death and sometimes only in heldness
and sometime, sometimes
Wild celery crumbles under our boots and rain wets each spore
into a thick whiff; the whole riverbank smells like an August lunch
at the park with ants on a log—peanut butter spread across
translucent green ribs with raisins dropped on top—
and ham sandwiches that my two sisters and I eat while my mother
pours us more juice with my father at work and they are all so far away
right now, everybody that I know: my two dogs, my wife, all the students
I’ve taught, my Nana, Tyler who died in a car accident in 11th grade,
Guy who used to blare Herbie Hancock on his boombox as we walked
down to Schenley Park to get high every other day during our freshman
year at Pitt, my neighbors, Tom who I shared a tent with for six months
on the Pacific Crest Trail, Trevor who I also shared a tent with but up in
Maine, and Sue my 11th grade Creative Writing teacher and everybody
but Andy and Noah who I’m bushwacking up this river with in search
of cutthroats and bull trout and this wild celery we keep tramping on,
this is all, this is enough at this moment: this river, these wildflowers,
these people, these memories, these scents, these longings for home.
I sleep under ancient cedar and each morning
I trace their woven bark trying to translate
some old language. I want to speak their stillness.
I want to study their shade and settle in their shadows.
Ferns fill the understory and I walk through them
gathering dew on my ankles, letting the softness wash
me awake while I drink coffee from a bent titanium cup.
What if I could live among the same beings
for my whole life? What if I only grew where
I was born? How would I participate in a
community of fate like that, listening to the same
river for centuries? What would it be like to live
in the wild abundance of home every moment
until fire or flood or lightning or saw?
Nothing is darker than a cedar silhouette at night.
I have two dogs. One is a puppy and the whole world
is new to her. Just yesterday she watched in disbelief
as wind took leaves until she couldn’t stand it anymore
and chased each and every one of them as they fluttered
and bounced in no particular way back to the ground off
invisible surfaces. The other is ten or eleven or twelve
and he watches as far as his eyes will let him and finds
the sun to lie in and won’t be surprised when, if, it snows
this winter, knowing this is the way life works. I always
want to find myself between the two with their bodies
close enough for me to touch, to watch, to listen.
Everything I have held has also held me and
will all I’ll be when I’m reduced to possession.