by William Speer

Where the river spilled into narrows
as summer eased into autumn, a boy
stood on the bank watching a trout rise
and he knew if he stepped into the shallows
with a thief’s grace, the rainbow would slide
into his cupped hands like the host at communion.

He would be reverent and give the fish to his mother
for her blessing, as she blessed all the food they received,
but then a tree fell and in the sound he heard the crosscut
saw plied by his aunt, Bonnie Moon Whitelaw, the only
female high rigger who had worked these hills, topping
spar trees and making even a misery whip sing sweet.

The boy recalled the photograph his mother kept
of her sister dancing on opening night at Wonderland
Cave Nightclub, and he wished he had known her,
but the rigging holding a bull block failed
and she died at the age of twenty-two.

The legend of her funeral is still gospel, loggers and cooks
and blacksmiths and bookkeepers lined the banks
while her body floated downriver on a raft until it was received
by the curved hands of the narrows and rose high into clear air
as if Bonnie were climbing into the green wonderland,
and the boy let the trout rise again and again.

William Speer lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he writes poems and studies poetry since retiring from a long career in the United States Army. His poems have been most recently published in Easy Coast Literary Review, Arkansas Review, and ATOMIC: A Journal of Short Poetry.

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  • Ralph / January 7, 2016

    Lovely poem, handsomely executed. Fine economy, with strong images that cohere perfectly. Clean and clear as that trout stream.