Sunday Jul 14

Allen Hoey has published six collections of poems and three novels; Once Upon a Time at Blanche’s is his most recent collection of poems. His 2008 collection of poems, Country Music, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His other books include A Fire in the Cold House of Being (selected by Galway Kinnell for the 1985 Camden Poetry Award), What Persists, Provençal Light & Other Poems, and The Precincts of Paradise, all poetry collections, and Chasing the Dragon: A Novel about Jazz, Voices Beyond the Dead, and On the Demon’s Trail, a mystery. His poems and reviews have appeared in numerous journals, among them The American Poetry Review, The Georgia Review, The Hudson Review, Poetry, Shenandoah, and The Southern Review. His poem “A Thousand Prostrations” was included in Essential Zen (HarperCollins) and another poem, “Essay on Snow,” was included in The Best American Spiritual Writing of 2004 (Houghton Mifflin). In 1993 he accepted the Precepts as a Rinzai Zen Buddhist. He was 2001 Bucks County Poet Laureate and currently serves as Director of the Bucks County Poet Laureate Program. He received a 2002 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship. He lives in an 18th century stone cottage on an old horse farm with a view of Bowman’s Hill.
Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord;
and by thy great mercy defend us from all the
perils and dangers of this night.
—The Book of Common Prayer
What passes for a camp—a sleeping bag
spread on a flat rock at the top of the falls, tucked
just under the canopy of oaks and tall pines, a fire
sputtering a yard or two away on which I cooked
a rudimentary dinner of canned hash in a battered
frying pan—June, early July, the night temperature still
drops into the forties, colder with the mist from the falls
evaporating in the air, I try to lie wrapped in the bag on
ungiving rock. The stream flows around elephantine
boulders that glow in the moonlight as though
haloed by their own inner light, though I suspect
it’s just the spume from the current
glistening in the pale light, but I can’t
shake the sensation that the rocks, the steam, the trees
enfolding overhead all listen, all know that I’m
lying here, an alien presence in a world where they
take darkness for themselves, worship
whatever stones and leaves and water
adore—God, I don’t know, I think I’ve
grown beyond such thoughts, just out here
in the darkness, trying to sleep, alone, for reasons
I don’t completely understand, drawn by the promise
of silence, peace, a kind of quietude I rarely
find in daily life—all this to lie on a flat rock
and feel every small pebble stab my back, yet the stars
blink between the leaves of the great trees
swaying in the night breeze, in the uprush of air
as the water tumbles into the chasm. A bird
wakes a moment in the darkness—my firelight, perhaps,
a dream, if birds dream the way we believe
dogs do, their paws running in their sleep, slight
whimpers, muffled barks—whistles once, twice, then
silence. Except the trees keep whispering, the stream keeps
hymning its song of flow and tumble, the falls
rush a mighty Gloria to the stars that shine down
on this, on me, until the sound becomes
too much, I rise, pace the slab, walk to the water’s edge
and lift my head, stretch out my arms as though
starlight, stream-spume—something—might
enter me—darkness, glory, the distillation of everything
dim and bright, solid and ephemeral, the bugs
dancing among the rocks like dropped
shards of heaven’s dome. Too much. Too much
quiet, darkness, effervescent light. I turn to the fire,
nudge free the largest log I foraged from the woods,
roll it to the edge of the falls and kick it,
flaming and hissing down the length of the cascade.
I doubt that I could find that place today.
Blue-wing Olive
Water over rock, a shifting melody. Liquid notes, then
the flat stretch where the stream runs knee-deep,
pants leaching water to the crotch, the water cool
but sun warm, glints of light on flowing water, ripples
holding the brilliance and carrying it several yards
downstream before releasing it in the eyes. Algae
swaying beneath the surface, the slick rocks
giving under sneakers. High summer, the trees in full leaf,
greens gone sparkling almost yellow in the steady
flux of sunlight, the few clouds drifting across
the slim channel of parched blue between the trees,
line whipping back—forward, arm pumping. The slight
dimple where the fly lands, rides the current, then lofted
and stroked back, forward, each swing unloosing
more line, a farther cast: fly, dimple, feeding rings
and occasional jumps: the trout for a moment
glistening—the hatch, the hit, the screech of reel
as the trout dives, fighting the line. Water, sparks of light—
here, on the bank. Autumn, the rill shallow, water
dropping over the rocks—not now, not as then—
her on the bank, watching, idly dipping her
hand in the chill, ferns in the deep shadow, trillium,
May-apples—the spread blanket, emptying the wicker
basket, sandwiches—wine—he showed her what
lay gasping in silence, swaddled in damp ferns in the creel.
“Are there lakes in your life,” he asked, and while
some come to mind, I immediately, instead,
remember flow—the surge and pull of rivers,
creeks, and streams, small and melodious
or wide and quiet, the shush of waves against
the banks a whisper in the dark beneath
trees that edge right up to the flow and arch
beyond, the tug of current against my legs
while the flyline whistles overhead, sparkle
of sun on water—gleam, glint—something
hard as the light that pierces the eyes,
the dark where the water goes under
roots the water’s freed from earth, gnarled,
veiny bits of the underworld brought to light,
the way the pulsing water against my calves
resonates with the water coursing through
my arteries and veins, blood both, red or blue,
flowing, tumbling, sometimes in cascades
that drop long yards to the pool below,
the buoyancy of wave, the ever-forward
propulsion of water following water, water.
Man that is born of a woman, hath but
a short time to live, and is full of misery.
—The Book of Common Prayer
Because it seems so far away. Measure
the distance in time, in miles, an emotional
expanse that never ends, wide, deep, the gap
we never cross because the furthest edge
always, like the horizon, slips farther away
the further we go, the closer we come.