Archive for October, 2010

The view west from the Pinnacle

I can see my breath, barely feel my fingers, and it has been at least a half hour since the chilly waters of the Saxtons River have topped my Extratuffs¬† and soaked me to the thigh. But I’m happy. The sunlight reflects off the water, and fire colored leaves ripple in the breeze and make their final jump and flutter down into the river. I’ve been told there’s no fish here, and I mostly believe it, but I can’t help but try. The sun touches the trees on the western horizon and the day is fading. I’ll fish just up to that rock and then get out I think to myself. I get halfway there before fly hits line in midair and the ensuing chaos of silk-thin line, hooked flies, and rod sits before me. I breathe life into my fingers and spend the next ten minutes untangling line. It’s how fishing goes for me, and it is ok. No fish today. Water bubbles out of my boots as I find my way back to the truck.

My truck still has Washington plates. I haven’t had time to replace the windshield and get it registered in Vermont. Time is precious these days. I’m an embarrassingly new teacher at a private school, and it is quite an adjustment for me. When I can, I get outside.

My brother and I sit on “The Pinnacle”… a clearing with a restored cabin and a wide open view of southern Vermont. It would be the peak of foliage color, except that a dry summer and torrential fall rains have stripped the lovely leaves from most of the trees. But you can still see the hint of a torch on the landscape. And the blue-tinted mountains are topped with the first snow of the season. Summer fades.

I’ve been around a bit, and over the last twenty years or so have fallen in love with the wide open spaces and soaring peaks of the American West. But I find myself falling back in love with Vermont. Someone, Barry Lopez I think, once said that to truly know a place, you have to leave it and come back. I’m back in Vermont and seeing it in a new way. I see the cloaking forest that envelopes and hides the traces of civilization. I see the beauty of these old, old mountains that stand over these young, impertinent second-growth trees. I appreciate the pockets of wildness that linger so close to the towns, and the character of a people shaped by years of living through harsh winters.

This is Vermont, and I’m happy to be home.





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The Decision

So it has been a little while now since I opened a PO box in New Mexico and had the pleasant experience of finding a couple of issues of Whitefish Review in there. Inside those tender pages rests a title, my name, and my words. A poem. And inside the front cover there is a small section that reads “The Decision” copyright 2010 by Daniel Harrington. A small literary magazine, but a great one, and the first poem I’ve ever had truly published, so it is a special moment.

It also means that there are fewer reasons to hold the poem to my chest… it has been published once already, so there isn’t a reason anymore for me to keep it from the blog. I hope you like it.

So, here it is, as published in Whitefish Review, volume 4, issue1 (Summer 2010)

The Decision

She thrashed and kicked in the other lane.
Dark, just out of town,
I felt bound, compelled to stop.

A Buck knife beneath the seat
deadly sharp, but personal.
I dreaded to bring it.

A yearling doe, just hit,
flailing and failing to find purchase,
to stand though dazed.

Somewhere out there, headlights coming.
I grasped four ankles and dragged
her to the shoulder.

Blood in her ear. Eyes dazed.
I knew.

I pictured pulling the chin back,
puling steel across that lovely neck.
That final breath.

In the space of my hesitation
she tried, wobbling, to stand,
and nearly fought to a knee.

Was she weak to have been hit?
Or strong to still be alive?
I couldn’t decide.

And what did I know about life?
The knife, or the slimmest of
chances to stand?

She staggered again, and I willed her up.
But she could not.
And I could not.

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