By Craig Raleigh
When I stopped by for a visit, you were still there; living in that house in the woods where you’ve always been. I didn’t have to knock; I didn’t have to ring the bell. I just used my eyes to look into your windows. I can see the white specks of soft oxygen floating on your ever so slightly-stained back; the sun reflecting off the moving ripples of liquid karma. The twist of your spine drifts through the broken forest with an abject disregard. There is no beginning and no end; only the rigor of ebb and flow. I have questions that only you can answer; unanswered questions from my childhood. They rage in my heart and can no longer be ignored. I have no choice but to see you up close now, old friend.
My feet are burning to ramble; my eyes itching with desire. Your banks are stripped bare by the frozen storms; pounded flat by the weight of winter. You have an openness now like at no other time of the year. I crave to discover your secrets; I require an audience with your mystery guests. Come, let me know you again before the rains of April wash it all away; before the blossoms of May hide them forever. I want to know your every dragonfly; your every snail. Why did that tree fall across your lap? Why did you hurl yourself out at the bend? I want to take off my shoes and wade through your living room. I want to feel the weight of your walls against my legs. I love what you’ve done to the place. You seem to change it every year. I see you moved that boulder; some trees that were here in my youth are gone now, but the shadows of their children remain. And that driftwood? Nice touch.
You’ve always accommodated me; never unwilling to let me dip my seine net into your soul and dredge for the truth. You let me float on your back and throw stones into your home. I captured your crayfish and chased your minnows, but you never said no. My footprints wander through your shoreline, my hands through your waters. My thoughts drift on your currents and dream of accomplishment. The roots of the trees show, threadbare and lonely in the air; their tentacle arms grasping at the indisposed ground. You let the green grasses of spring settle on your banks and the residents of the woodlot quench their thirst.
My fingers are poised. I long to touch you and revel in your waters; no longer does the winter hold us apart. Warm breezes are coming to join us and blow away our fears. Sunny days will come and drench us in the sweet-sweet heat of summer. I’ll watch again as the rain softly pelts your face; I’ll smile again and watch it all sweep downstream. I’d live here if you’d let me. I’d build a house next to yours and be your neighbor. We’ll look out the window at each other and wave. Your reeds can be my lawn; your cattails my trees. I’ll plant a garden of willows, and we’ll watch them grow.
Remember when we floated toy boats together? They would pass down your ripples, and lie quietly in your backwaters. I would make a dam out of your rocks, and uselessly try to hold you back. You would laugh and wash it away, and I would try again.
I’ve known you since I was a boy. You’ve followed me wherever I’ve gone. Your still and ever changing waters have always been a part of me. Carry me away to tomorrow and drop me off in the yet to be. I long to see where you’re going; I yearn to be where you’ve been. Talk to me with your delicate gurgle; sing to me with your undemanding voice.
You’re a part of me that I cannot deny.
You swim in soul.
I’ve been here before, and I know you.
Craig Raleigh is a writer and mason who lives in Clarkson, NY. He is currently working on his second book, “Water Wolf and other Concoctions.”