Poems by William Stratton

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by William Stratton

From Canary Summer 2017

William resides on the shores of Lake Champlain, nestled between the relatively fast-growing Adirondacks and the much more ancient Green Mountains. Hiking up through a few thousand feet of stone, water, ice and snow of those peaks, he can almost make out where the Lamoille River reaches the bay near his home.

From the bay beach to the river
we scraped the sandy bottom
and reeds brushed the canoe
what is now if not our moment
they said, but I was afraid.

The delta where stranded trees
pointed towards the mountains,
mouths full of water
for the first time and the silt calling;

herons flew, and a lonelier bird,
and the sun began to burn
early evening in colors—
the sides of salmon.

We turned towards the docks
and quickened our pace,
beneath us things we could not see
in darkening water went on

in the slow song of the buried
and our paddles, the shovels.


by William Stratton

From Canary Fall 2017

Even in October the wind off the lake
can be cold, real cold like turn your fingers
into dumb dogs and blow right through I
don't care how many shirts you got on.
First slept out here fourteen years ago
right out there in front of the church.
They never kick you out I think God
tells them they have to let you. I'm not
from a place where God spent a lot
of time unless it was on the way to
somewhere else, someplace where
when the people smile it don't scare
you, someplace where everyone has
a dream they can catch and hold
even for a little while. I used to like
to go fishing when I was a boy. When
I first came up here it was to work on
the lake and I thought I could maybe
catch a sturgeon, I hear the lake still
has one or two way down on the bottom.
I lost the job because the foreman hated
black people and I was late on a day when
he hated how black I was. Most people
would have gone back to home, but I
couldn't leave that damned water and then
I started drinking real bad. Now I don't
have no people no more. I think I could
still catch me a sturgeon though, on a day
like this when the sky is the same color
as its scales and no one wants to be out
on the water because it's too dangerous.
That's the secret, see. It's the wind. The
real big ones wait for the goddamned
wind and then they come right out from
the bottom. The goddamned wind.

The Lumberjack

by William Stratton

From Canary Spring 2017

I took trees from up on the mountain
for thirty years give or take. The trees
took my youth, my joints, and gave me money.
I couldn't spend it on anything
but the bottle and some brown then my wife
left and I tried putting my life back on
for a while but damned if I hadn't forgot how.
I knew how to fall them just right I almost
never had one hang and I could close my
eyes right before the final cut and feel with
my hands the slow tip of the big body and
know where the mainline was, waiting to
pull the big logs down to landing. I was good.
Not many left now, like there was.
I put the logs down one by one for years but

they got the better end. I might as well
have fallen out there, among friends.
I might as well have felt something snap,
felt the heat of sap on my body felt a hole
in my gut or maybe breaking an arm or leg
the last thing I remember the cold steel
in my side punching right through
maybe I could hear the saw and maybe
I could see one last time that I had
stood on my own and that I was
worth something and that somebody
wanted me to be strong and good
and I would have blotted out the sky
for one long minute as I fell as they
tried to catch me and then only
the earth could stop me hitting
the ground and yeah I pulled logs
out by the hundred over a long while
but at least they died among family.

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