Photograph by Brent Wiggans
TAKING LUNCH ALONG THE STANISLAUS RIVER AFTER
A COLD MORNING WITH NO FISH
By Jeff Knorr
There is no hunger like the hunger I feel today.
Even in Vienna on Christmas day away from family,
the snow falling like the sky had caught fire,
grandmother dying on Christmas Eve.
To feel helpless is like a coyote watching calves
with one leg stuck in a steel spring trap.
I have begun to feel my father's pain
as he ages like the cedars lifting around their home.
If only our bodies were like stone.
This sierra river has pounded the flesh
of the earth for thousands of years and miles.
Do the dead run in my blood like minerals?
If I could bring them all back, I would;
I cannot bear the distance of goodbyes and burials.
Today, along the river under these lodge pole pines
I am in search of small gods to deliver me
something more than simply air and water.
By Jeff Knorr
The match strikes hot against the slate.
Then the burner whooshes on, blue gas
heats the cast iron pan until it smokes.
The distance before us climbs up onto the peak
of Sonora Pass. In this valley, the grape vines
stretch into spring sun. Behind the house,
the bones of the old barn lean, bare of muscle
and the skin of roof that's left might slide off any day.
The dog, blind in one eye now, lies at your feet,
the good eye aimed at me by the stove,
both of you waiting for breakfast.
The news spreads across the little table;
the dog and I would prefer that it never arrives:
Young death in Afghanistan, cities in debt,
illegal loans, a gas line explodes
a neighborhood, and a missing father's body
floats to the surface of a nearby lake.
Any joy in this country will have to be
dug out of the hard ground.
Bacon fat is smoking hot in the black skillet.
When I lay the trout filet in it sizzles.
Trout. Two fried eggs. Potatoes. Coffee.
The morning is complete when the plate is full.
Down the drive at the river, beyond the levee road,
spring run-off loaded with debris.
Broken possibility swirls on the surface,
the farm on the far bank foreclosed and for sale,
and beyond that vultures circle
some dead animal, until it's time to feed,
their blackness relaxing in the wind.
FIRST SPRING FISHING
By Jeff Knorr
The Walker River is running cold enough that even
the big German Brown trout move dumbly as cattle.
The sun is baking the wild sage into a pungent
oily breeze that keeps me from staying warm today.
What, besides the blood inside me, will vanish if my body
turns to ashes and drifts to the moon?
The birds keep the afternoon humming along
like the shiny Buick's radio running down hwy 395.
The river bends below me and slows into an emerald slick
before dropping down the canyon on its run to Nevada.
There is a coyote running inside me I cannot find;
it bothers me that I donít know why he is here.
All day I will fight the wind looking for lost lovers and
my grandfather who taught me to sling flies.
By dusk, the moon will watch us, the new season
so worn into me that my ears hiss like the tumbling water
with the distant memory of snow and death and so many goodbyes.