Memories of a nine years old
—the northern end of Lake Washington, summer 1955…
In late afternoon, the neighbor’s pet peacocks
called roy-ee, roy-ee, and again, roy-ee, strutted,
circling majestically in a rusted chicken-wire cage
as I began my running
across the abandoned log boom, a timber raft chained
along the shore—a shortcut to my hidden entrance
into the marsh—running, jumping from soggy spruce
to darkened pines—running, dancing on old trees
rolled to an erratic waltz.
Loud underwater music clashed
with bark splintering, floating off—an odd adult knowledge
of sounds traveling deep in a lake,
dark dreams of trees that continue to close
overhead again and again
when I stumble and slip, cold dreams of drowning
even a young boy could understand.
When the wind shifts slightly, and roy-ee,
roy-ee, and again roy-ee drifts on the breeze,
these discordant sounds are an iridescent insistence
streaking their transparent wash
in the heavy air above me,
and the bright rainbows on the thin strands of oil slicks
trapped against by the logs and thick cables.
All around, the cattails still turn into the wind
as if they know they are my shield.
Even now, this is hard to explain.
They grow so thick and vibrant, their interwoven greenness
can be pushed down underfoot and formed into trails—
with hard work, the wetter areas can be carpeted
with fallen branches, blackberry canes,
strips of bark;
and my yellow raincoat continues to gracefully billow
down this maze snaking towards open water,
an unbelievable growth supporting a young boy staring
into the glare of thin rain.
It feels as easy as Red-winged Blackbirds riding on long swaying stalks.
How will I ever understand
the crushed reeds and wistful breezes
carrying each heavy step above the algae tinted water?
I stop. My bare hands part unmarked but memorized cattails.
This needs to be careful work. It was almost impossible
to avoid crushing the sharp wet leaves.
No marks should be left.
Faintly, in the wind, there is roy-ee, roy-ee, roy-ee.
And stepping through this camouflaged door—
as if into new un-rumpled clothes—
red boots create another intricate maze of personal paths.
These newer routes are still raw
and wet with giant puddles
rising to the top of my boots. A whole afternoon passes.
Maybe I knew, maybe I know, even then, even now,
these trails were, these trails are
almost as hidden from me as to everyone else.
Often, a map appears in my head
as if I understood, understand the directions
and choices I made, I make. A goldfinch follows.
A Yellow Rail stretches its wings and darts like a Deer Mouse
avoiding my running steps.
I hear roy-ee, roy-ee, and again, roy-ee,
and smell the riled mud
and the lurking depths of water underneath my feet.
Blurred by wind and time, the dragonflies still turn,
and the tall thin leaves
dance around my whole body.
Their constant green humor laughs at how distracted I have become.
These leaves drew, and still draw thin lines of blood
on the palms of my hands.
When the wind is suddenly so quiet
that I can hear roy-ee, roy-ee, and again, roy-ee,
I find this world
and don’t quite understand
how the future is again so confused
by the careful readings drawn like veins
of these flights from myself.