Tonight was your first time. You stepped
Toward dark waters, burdened with blankets and light.
Your first time. Dark weeds engulfed you,
nettles stung your bare legs. You struck
at them with a stick, as if they were serpent,
as if they were hungry, while the weight
of the night swung precariously
on your back. You reached out
a foot for stepping stone, a foot
for the dark water, and slipped. Sudden,
unexpected, you plunged into the icy creek.
Water swelled up around you, your body
slid into the dark current. Away downstream,
your hat swirled and you rose up to plunge
after it, staggering to shore with the prize, dripping,
angry, embarrassed. Your dumped a quart
and a half from each boot. Slogged up the hill,
home. All these years you've lived on the creek,
and you never fell in. Now you can laugh, and you do.
And you don't. You're poised on the creek bank
again in the nettles, one foot stretched
toward the water. You still have to cross
the dark water.
For Scott Carter, At Silk Creek Retreat ‘05
(see note below about Retreat)