Walking Will Solve It

Brendan Galvin Click to

bgalvin-40Brendan Galvin is the author of sixteen volumes of poems. His collection Habitat: New and Selected Poems 1965-2005 (LSU, 2006) was a finalist for the National Book Award. His crime novel, Wash-a-shores, is available on Amazon Kindle.  The Air’s Accomplices, a collection of new poems was released from LSU last year.  His Egg Island Almanac will appear in 2017.

Or so the Romans prescribed.
A half-mile down the Egg Island flats
the fridge can’t mumble
its imprecations at me, the bills, taxes
and toxins seem to be sloughing off,
all the home stuff that makes me feel
I’m a man up there on a steel span
over the river, painting each beam
with a small brush, doing it all alone.

Now I’m humming, recalling the lyrics
of old tunes I didn’t know I knew. I think of
Stevens largely pontificating to himself
all the way down Farmington Avenue
to the office, then Wordsworth and Coleridge
on gravel and scrubby paths, Frost
out walking the dark. With two dogs
I never walk alone, for they have things
to show me. Lefty may pick up a squid
so recently dead it is still that purply
fresh squid color, or a green crab
will be waving its wrenches around
in Magnus’s mandibles so I have to
talk him into dropping it.

Where tall spartina obscures
the marsh channels that drain and fill
with the tides, I have dreamed two men
walking on water for an instant, before their barge
rounded the bend and there were four, one poling,
one hanging onto the tiller, and two rowing,
seated in the bow before piled hay
and the haying machine. Ghosts of the Portuguese
farmers, and the dream boat for old age,
the Charon update.  A windless, fetorless heat
like sepia filled the dream’s air, and swimming
behind those oarsmen a huge head like a gray seal’s–
the old horse whose name I’m somehow
certain is Joseph, out of harness, a halo of greenflies
and mosquitoes dissolving around his ears.

Back of the Egg Island dunes once,
a woman’s footprints, toes flawless, mild arch,
heel slender, going side-by-side with a set of  paws
whose arrowhead shape and flat heel
meant coyote. Too early for bare feet,
she was pushing the season. Then a blue heron’s
tracks appeared beside hers, clean as
a Norse mapmaker’s sign for forest. Girl with Heron,
Girl and Coyote, as in a myth like the Boy and
the Dolphin.  They walked all the way to the tideline,
but if reason kicks in it will say she was following
the previous meanders as I was following hers,
that I could never wake early enough
to watch her re-enter the sea.

But this morning, stranded in a pool
the river deposited, a small fish flashing back and forth
as though one of those times that puddle
would lead to the river’s freedom–
it brought me back to the man on the bridge,
who sooner or later has to begin again
where he started.