A Painting of an Angler Fishing the Source

John Engels Click to

jengelsJohn Engels (1931-2007) was born in South Bend, Indiana and spent much of his teaching career at St. Michaels College in Vermont. An acclaimed trout fisherman and an avid trombone and autoharp player, he was devoted to the written word and was rewarded with poems in Harper’s, The New Yorker and frequently in Shenandoah. He received a Guggenheim and won the National Poetry Series (for Cardinal’s in the Ice Age). His other books include Weather Fear: New and Selected Poems 1958-1982 (Georgia, 1983) and Recounting the Seasons, Poems 1958-2005 (University of Notre Dame, 2005).  “A Painting of an Angler” first appeared in Shenandoah 45/3.

An angler slashed on in black
is crouched in a chaos
of daisies and mulleins, on a riverbank,
from beyond the high edge of which blooms

an apple orchard that demonstrates
signs of human labor, a rake
against a tree, a basket. The picture employs
a sunny landscape, though its flowery background

is considerably faded, and because
of the thickness and rapidity
of its application, the paint
of the face is badly cracked, as are
coat and hands,

though only the crazing
of the face at first concerns
us (later the rest). And somehow a continuity
of this landscape, a cypress

erupts, black against a world
in which all the light
is white, and each color
merely an exclusion

of white, orchard and cypress glowing
beneath a petrifact white body neither sun
nor moon – and then occurs
an extrusion of breech

and sycamore, and from this forest
issue the first rapids of the river,
the angler, preparing
in an exhilaration

of fear and foreknowledge
of consequence, to cast,
though discovering it difficult to see
through these shifting perspectives

of watery light in which the light
devours color
and shadow. The angler –
the focus of all this rather

than a subordinate element,
who knows how it is done,
but not how it comes out –
crouches at the tail of the pool,

while above him from a black
discontinuity of the earth, the source
pours over the radiant first
of its chalky falls.

-for Nick Lyons