I heard a story once about a boy who lived out Ithaca way
(Some nice country, so folks tell me) that put a bottle
With a note inside in the lake out there
Which, so the tale goes, floated up the Seneca Canal
Into Ontario, and, from there, up to the St. Lawrence
To the Atlantic, the kicker being that someone found the note
Somewhere in Florida down around the Space Coast.
It’s a fanciful story, for sure; but a flight of fancy here and there
Is a welcome thing when your life consists of being counted out of bed
Herded to the mess and the yard , and one last body count
Before the flick, flick, flick of the lights at eleven.
This time of year the sky, still trying in fits and starts
To flush winter out of its system, is every bit
As gun-boat gray as the walls of this place, and when a soul has
All the time to think or, worse yet, remember, your mind
Will glide and wander to just about all the wheres and whens
And why-fors that you’ve banked up until now.
Lately I’ve found myself recollecting the ten-or-twelve year old me;
We lived in Castile (close to this place as the crow flies,
Though, practically speaking, it might as well be on Venus)
And, while our place was in town, my uncle Virgil had a farm
Up in the hills overlooking over the Genesee River,
And sometimes, I’d ride with him on his big old Farmall,
Huge, red-faced man singing in a voice better suited for an old maid,
And sometimes he’d let out a not-quiet-enough “Shit!”
If his attention wandered, and the cultipacker hit a goodly sized rock
With a “thwack” to let you know the disk was gone
Or chipped beyond use or repair, but I would just watch that river,
All dark and brown courtesy of the Kodak plant
Or Bausch and Lomb up in Rochester and, as I found out later,
The primary culprit in the Case of the Genny Screamers.
Uncle Virg would talk about how, before they built the dam
Down at Mount Morris, how the river would, come the melt
Of the snow pack and the cold rains of near-Easter,
Rise out of its banks like Gabriel himself and take that loose soil
And those dormant plants that had failed to root themselves
With due diligence and carry it away toward the big lake to the north.
And so I say now—river, run wide and run deep, and deposit
The dead bracken, the stunted crownvetch, the broken milkweed
Upon some unnamed shore to perhaps find a dwelling
In the sun, there to take hold and, just conceivably, prosper.