A Quiet You Can Almost Hear Behind the Buzz — Poems by Jorge Sánchez
POETRY: SIX BY JORGE SÁNCHEZ
The Canoeist Encounters a Black Etched Prominent
How did my eyes fall upon this tiny
caterpillar while John B goes
behind a tree? This same baby moth
— dark, hooded face, almost human eyes,
a forked tail that makes it look like a slug
in reverse — caught my eye at a book sale
for castoffs at a library a decade ago. Now
it sees me, and now it raises its tail: the forks
whip, and the head rises so its arched
body seems all muscle, like tension
itself, all because it fears and wants
to stay alive, to make it to the chrysalis:
anchored, spun, a sac all filled with light.
The Canoeist Drifts Among the Puffballs and Thinks of Home
The perfect summer day is filled by puffs
from trees too light and too sublime to wait
until the later months of the green season,
yielding up some kind of light; here, I
see the same signs of softness, of easing
into the bright clarity of mid-June, but why
does the sight of these tiny white spheres
send me to some northside avenue? Here,
the water plants’ yellow heads poke
out of the bracken to bloom, the evidence
of the spring below troubles their quiet tendrils’
submarine lilt, their easy float. The water’s
skin so clear the grasses, saugers,
turtles the clockwork of this crystalline
life I skim the mere top of, gliding.
The Canoeist and the Lost Things
Why does every lost thing suggest
the cosmic incompleteness of toads, the frogs’
amphibian lot, their half-in, half-
out, as this one, riding along for three
hours, about nine miles, taking him far
from home? Where shall he go from here, what
will he make of this lake or it of him? Soon,
the sun will set, and I will put in.
The frog will then be lost to me, as all
things are, as all things become. To himself,
though, he becomes a darkness again, lost
in this new lake, new home to him,
the cratered crescent moon the only light.
The Canoeist Portages
What of this life is not a portage, two
and twenty rods over a ridge a half
dozen times only to put out
upon the water once more, the rocks
slippery with moss and slime, pine needles
aproning the shallow mouth of a slim lake?
A quiet you can almost hear behind the buzz
of the cicadas, past the lapping of the lake
in the wind. This is how much more it is
than a portage: the weight of the boat
held up by water, the crisp glide of oar
giving way to the void the water hides.
The Canoeist Loses his Oar
With the air so still it seems asleep, what
equation moves the boat upon the water,
heavy as it is with me? The lake takes
nothing it is not given, and so the boat
scuds further from the grassy shore.
The eddies and curls of currents made by fish
and the tilting, spinning earth are the true captains
now, the canoe enslaved to their minute forces.
I lean back and look up. Clouds
like a raincoat. Sky like a message home.
The Canoeist Smokes his Pipe atop a Log
How does the turtle go about its life
needing nothing? It snaps dumbly at hooks
meant for fish, but mainly it delights
in riddles told by springfed lakes,
riddles like the ones its father told.
Oh, to lay eggs in June and walk
away for summer, season unswept of moss,
like a pegboard put up to give
the travelers something to do!
The turtle’s blossom life is a riven seam.
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Cuban American fiction writer, teacher, essayist, and poet Jorge Sánchez was born in Hialeah, Florida, and raised in Miami. He earned a BA from Loyola University, an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan, and an MA from the University of Chicago Divinity School. Sánchez teaches at Elgin Academy in Elgin, Illinois, and lives in Chicago with his wife and son.