Poems by William Kelley Woolfitt

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by William Kelley Woolfitt

From Canary Winter 2010-11

William lives in the Ridge and Valley Province in Pennsylvania, but goes walking on Pea Ridge near Nestorville, West Virginia, whenever he gets the chance.

I remember us in our canoe
on the Medina River, paddles
troubling the waters, souls gliding
through long bowers of cypress
and shinnery oak. How easy it was
to believe in smooth travel,
in the merciful and the boundless.
And in the durability of the planks
we clinch-nailed to a well-timbered frame.

Suppose we move forward or back,
gather provisions for a new life,
or at least another trip, depending on
where we point the prow. Suppose we look
at what we did, or might yet do,
given eternal guarantees, or at least
long-term soundness, certified
and interest-free, the purity of hearts
that cannot be repossessed.

Suppose we find ourselves fruit-fattened,
driven out and foundering downstream.
We burn the wicker frame of our coracle
for a sacrifice, dry the skins, use the sinews
for fishing line. When nothing bites,
we remember how quickly our fingers
and teeth tore into the pleasures that shined.
We chew on roots, bark, and grasses,
take shelter beneath our coats of skin.

May we yet find a language stone,
unconfounded and whole,
inscribed with christcross-rows,
with vowels that sound like a chant
for chasing the dark things away.
Its consonants could be clues
about how to navigate tomorrow’s
stretch of river, its sandbars and shallows,
mudflats and meanders.

First published in Rock & Sling

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