Things I Didn’t Learn from the Road
A fawn and doe clambering away through the brush
can sound thunderous as me falling out of bed.
Despite what Rich said I can walk Blue Hen to Buttermilk Falls
in twenty minutes and not get either foot wet.
The trail and the musclewood trees don’t remember me,
but my hands and feet remember them.
The water’s down from last week’s torrent to its usual
midsummer trickle. Still it sings and complains and pretends
this is entirely new, every step down the long narrow stair
of the falls. Like Eternity and William Blake, I love
the productions of time. The hot damp dry cool presence
of earth peers shyly from the edges of things, whispers
in crevices, floats and falls through fire and slate, echoes
in the weeds that cling to the cliffs, the roots that burst
dazed and disgruntled into sunlight years ago and have been
pondering their next move ever since. Why are we
so in love with water falling? There’s nobody here but me
and two waterbugs who don’t want to share anything,
with me or each other. There’s nobody here but the sleeping
whitefoot mice and cicadas and birds whose song is lost
in falling water. There’s nothing here but sunlight bent
and laced and reborn into 10,000 things, of which I have
good clear names for ten or twenty. I give up on naming
for the thousandth time, take a picture to prove my feet
are dry, another to show anyone who wonders that
the falls are still wet and foaming, beautiful and falling.
Jeff Gundy’s sixth book of poems, Somewhere Near Defiance, is forthcoming from Anhinga. A book of essays on theopoetics, Songs from an Empty Cage: Poetry, Mystery, Anabaptism, and Peace, is also due soon. Other new poems are in The Sun, Cincinnati Review, Kenyon Review, Nimrod, and elsewhere. In 2008 Gundy was a Fulbright lecturer in American Studies at the University of Salzburg, and an essay based on that time is forthcoming in Georgia Review.