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Posts Tagged ‘river’

Fishing on the Bushkill

When all that meant everything
Was a fire burning deep at night,
With friends to share life’s comic air,
The moon above to steal sight.

That was right, that was right, a time
And place suspended still somewhere.
A vault, untouched, unnamed, floating
Above those who wish they could stare.

Protected there my father lives
At that scout camp Resica Falls.
In his teens and full of living,
Hearing that Pennsylvania call.

One summer out there out posting
Past the main camp to staff Fawn Run,
My young father was on the edge,
A place where deep thoughts had begun.

He had time in those woods alone,
And ran his post when campers showed,
He’d often talk of Bushkill Creek,
Of its bronze color and how it flowed.

He’d make a fire, grab his rod,
At evening time he’d fish the creek,
Time spent in that flowing sweetness,
Relying on brown trout to eat.

Like a bear that is so content
To fish and eat and sleep so well,
Under stars from heavens glow,
The years to come no one could tell.

What thoughts my father had before,
Standing there on Bushkill’s shore,
Before he lost love and fought a war,
When life was moments, nothing more?

Did he know what the future held,
Or simply watched the river flow?
Was Vietnam even a thought?
Into that jungle he would go.

Did he know he’d be scoutmaster?
His sons to be and that boy the same,
All destined to be Eagle Scouts,
I knew the man that boy became.

Navigating rivers and life,
In that protected vault of then,
Trout, Brotherhood, Spirit, being
Among the links of boys to men.

Deep in the woods where wild calls,
Links that are not seen, are not heard,
Father’s gone but the Bushkill flows,
He has become that secret word.

Some of his ashes flow there now,
To keep the Bushkill’s spirit safe,
To guard by way of bird and fish,
To strengthen love and heighten faith.

What thoughts my father had before,
Standing there on Bushkill’s shore,
Before he lost love and fought a war,
When life was moments, nothing more?

Kyle McHale      2011

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Old Professor

For Stanley Plumly

It started years ago, or before that,
a child, the source of everything
we become, the subtle origin of
a mighty river, that old first poem
ever spoken, the first pumps of blood to
the human heart, I was on my way.

I, nineteen, sitting in a lecture hall,
poetry 101, thinking I had
somehow mastered the craft already,
how wrong I was, how wrong I am.

You walked in on a frigid afternoon,
snow, melted and refrozen sat in the
sun crusting everything, casting light
back to where it came from. The cold campus
glistened like February, wisps of
cirrus engaged in their ice dance on that
blue stage, all those young minds afoot underneath,
like busy ants, channels of flowing blood
giving life to every brick and stone,
every piece of the place nurtured with youth.

I watched you approach, stage front, off came the
scarf, the over coat, white hair and a white
beard emerged, hand selected for the part,
meticulously putting all in place.

You spoke, that calmness, deep but not too deep,
serious but still warm, a low youthful
glisten in those old eyes, a room of young
reckless ambition put at ease by that
tone of voice, like the way I sought advice
from my grandfather cross-legged on the
floor at the foot of his chair, all the men
who had ever spoken to me rolled into one,
I knew then I knew nothing.

I read all that was assigned, frustrated,
something remained blurred, thoughts hung over me,
an orange moon tortured me one night,
purple clouds another, gaps that remained
in my head and in my heart, they still do.

You, an Old Heart by the time I arrived
in your presence, defender of the old ways,
a pulse giving master to the old craft.
You said, “Do not fear, poems do not get
lonely, they read themselves tucked away on
shelves”, lost in time, with time, deep in the stacks.
Though I am sure my beer stained verses
sat crumpled up on the floor, as lonely
as it gets, unloved, unread, unwanted.
The whirlwind of college absorbing
everything around, eventually
closing in with Frost “like a dent in dough”.
How much can one heart truly endure
alone in a world full of heartless things?

You and your Keats, observing the autumn
chill set in, but it was the deep heart of
winter, before the campus bloom of spring,
soon flowers, perhaps tulips, Plath’s Tulips,
you had us rearrange those stanzas once.
I could not see a new order to Plath’s
madness, only that those African cats
stalked me as well, some calculated dark-
ness had descended on my existence.

I have a fondness, as those who think do,
for that place where the water meets the land.
A stone, that heart-shaped stone by your beachside,
churned up in the origin countless times,
those unending forces, unforgiving.
After a night of heavy drinking I
split my eyebrow open on my night stand,
bleeding and passed out on the dorm room floor,
a scar on the body and on the heart,
spit back up from the tumultuous mix
of living for a breath, only to be
thrust back in to survive, stone heart and all,
“nicked from the top half down”, our own hearts
wishing to disappear in the skyline.

I sat with school children, you among them,
dense as Yeats questioning in his school room,
children sit in a classroom for me now.
The master source, the bole and the blossom,
you blossomed once, and yet, as if by chance,
I know we are both the “dancer and the dance.”

I have been to your roadside near Staunton
working some summer at Goshen Scout Camp,
that picture on a wall I have walked into,
arriving there without knowing it,
frozen in ancient mountain-building-time,
Appalachian time, beautiful time.

I would see you eating lunch on South Campus,
too afraid to approach for fear of
being dismissed over something that I
thought we may have had in common.
I will say something next time, I never did.

So Old Professor, let me not forget
a degree of thanks, a Directive on
how to get lost in the meanderings
of the mind, winding like your poem rivers,
like your clouds for Keats, like your first poem,
like campus frozen in February.
The source of which may one day empty
into some great delta, the Mississippi,
the Nile, the Me Kong, the gates of heaven,
a start and an end, as your young heart must
and has become an Old Heart, as youth led
you to, among many things, an Old Professor.
I was then, and am now, on my way.

Kyle McHale 2013

Poems referenced:

Stanley Plumly – Old Heart, Simile, Off a Roadside Near Staunton, Constable’s Clouds for Keats

Robert Frost – Directive

Sylvia Plath – Tulips

William Butler Yeats – Among School Children

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Pearls

I imagine a thousand oysters drifting
away slowly, keeping perfect space,
like synchronized swimmers hanging in air,
suspended there like an oyster chandelier,
and then all at once begin to laugh, happy as
a thousand clams, crooked smiles opening
chuckling in a choking manner, coughing up
and letting drop a thousand perfect pearls,
white as ivory, clean as young river water from high in the hills.
Peaceful pearls in air, silent, like a pin before it drops,
like the sun before it rises,
hitting water a thousand droplet splashes turn into five thousand
water rings that for a moment do not touch and are in perfect symmetry,
a thousand pearl epicenters.

I close my eyes before the rings collide to keep
the moment frozen and think of the white orbs
sinking deeper into black water.
A calmness comes over me and I realize it was only a thought.
I opened an oyster once to find a perfect pearl,
It felt smooth in my hand with a sense of purpose
like a children’s marble resting on the thumb before it shoots.
Pearls do not remind me of any women though I’m sure they do for some.
One may find it a strange thought to think of
an oyster somewhere in some ocean, bay, or river,
sitting there not knowing it’s place in the world.

Kyle McHale       2013

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Man’s Heart

Always now, as always then,
A place to form a perfect age,
When chivalry and better men
Had fine-tuned their sharp, skillful rage,
Or showed their love with letters sent,
With blood and earth on an old page.
Better or worse to woman that
Could then play puppet, tit for tat.

Always now, as always back
When only strength in men had failed,
Crushing thoughts of a woman that
Gave wind to an empty sail,
The only thing that men do lack,
Finding strength in loves betrayal.
Old knights and new knights do their best,
Holding hearts from a bursting chest.

Always now, as always ago,
Carried honor but could not pass,
Through or around the awful show
Of two body prints in soft grass
Where love was formed and made to glow,
But no one told not made to last.
A time or two duration of,
When honor thinks it can keep love.

Always now, as always had
To carry swords and steel plates,
But battle flesh is far from sad
When stacked against loving’s hate,
Of that which kills a lonely lads
Chance at keeping honors fate.
What swords of men, what honor set
Of traits can make good men forget?

Always now, as always past,
Dark ages come and go away,
It’s sweetest things that do not last,
That make men men in honors way,
Carrying forth the only task
To say the words when one must say,
I am man with armored heart,
I lead worlds that once were dark.

Kyle McHale      2009

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My Westward Mind

A calling to my westward mind,
But I a stubborn east-lee soul,
What wonders stay out there to find
A landscape that once truly stole
The dreams of men whose families kept
In all that pain but never wept,
Yet strived to seek another way,
Packed up that carriage, moving on
To some new tune of western song
To follow the sun at red ends day.

A place kept near and close down in
Where wild calls and spirit seeks
A chance for the true journey-man
To not perish on an east-lee street.
Venture forth! Venture forth!
Find out what life is truly worth,
Watch the plains spill out with sun,
Dip in a river wide with fear,
Hold close those things that are so dear.
Watch a herd of bison run

Like changing winds of giant domes,
A bison’s back or thunder cloud,
Confusing start to a new home,
On the edge is living now.
In that edge a canyon stays
Waiting for heavy hearts to pray,
And sway among a wild place,
A brown bear’s spirit hiding out
Where driven up are magic trout,
Where all is comfort in the space.

A calling to my westward mind,
A storm not seen so deep within,
Building smoke like the ancient kind
When one small flame has to begin
A roaring traveler’s blaze
That fire’s the soul into the haze,
When it clears what stays is peace
That seeps through once painful veins,
Heartache that’s released after heavy rain,
The past is now the lonesome east.

Kyle McHale      2012

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