Friday, January 29, 2016

Ice fishing


I remember a little boy at an air show
Gazing in fascination at the helium balloon
Tied by a string to his finger,
Utterly oblivious to the Blue Angels roaring over our heads.
I think sometimes of the pilots,
Knights of the air
Steeped in complexity,
With hundreds of hours of textbook mastery
And thousands of hours logged in the cockpit,
Surrounded by buttons and switches and dials,
And of the little boy with his simple noble-gas miracle,
And think of them as colleagues
Partners in flight.


An old man is out on the ice;
A friendly fellow, he waved as we drove by.
The colors stand out on the snowy expanse:
He sits on an orange bucket that once held drywall compound,
A yellow chainsaw, a green thermos, and a coffee can beside him.
Red can. I won't lay a bet, but it just might be Hills Brothers.
Behind him, pageantry plays out,
The sport of kings:
The hounds zigzagging through the woods,
The hawk following above,
The silver song of Lahore bells carrying through the still winter air.
And though a couple of rabbits run out of the woods
And then dash back in closely pursued,
The old man never turns to take notice.
With earflap hat pulled down against the cold,
And perhaps a lifetime in a machine shop behind him,
It's possible he's unaware of our presence.
But maybe, I think, he's simply rapt,
Engrossed in his own version of sport,
Waiting for the pressure on the line
That connects him to another life,
To another world where they breathe water
And everything happens out of sight.


Eventually, the hawk pins a rabbit to the ice of the creek.
The hawk eats on my fist as we walk back to the car,
The dogs eagerly anticipating their share.
As I wash my bloody hands in the snow,
The falling sun painting the cottonwoods in flaxen tones,
The old man's Carhartts glow in a patch of sunlight,
Wheat-coloured canvas transformed into burnished gold,
And I find myself thinking of that yellow balloon.

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