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Bone Carver 3: Cutting Away


    Our concern was speech, and speech impelled us
    To purify the dialect of the tribe
    And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight.
                            - T S Eliot

***

        One day the Bone Carver and I were fishing
        Up by the Old Mill Pond.
        The Lake was as smooth as a mirror
        And the boat sat still upon its reflection.

        The bamboo pole lay ready in my hands,
        Balanced and loose, ready to whip up and away
        At the slightest tremble of the floater.
        With my entire mind I watched
        The unmoving mystery of that red and white sphere,
        Fastened upon its double in the water,
        A still point of timelessness,
        A signal so weighted with possibility
        That I could barely believe the thin line
        Enough to hold it above the surface.
        At any instant, it would be gone,
        Fallen out of the universe,
        Like a star's ancient light.
        And my imagination would be left forlorn,
        Unattached and unable to act
        In the ringed wake of such an absence.

        It was the center, the gravity,
        Of my every thought. And yet....
        My attention wavered, wondering
        Away from my body, from the two hands
        That held ready, seemingly, without my thinking.

        We had been in this same place
        For such a long time
        Without catching a single fish,
        Without getting even a hint of a bite.
        The sitar drone of the cicadas wound round
        The siren silence of the sun.
        And my eyes began to see into the floater,
        Where the tails of red waves circled
        Out of the heads of a white waves,
        The heart of a fire smoking with a line of time,
        Rising into a night sky so full of starlight
        That I imagined the shell of the world
        Might be shattering.

        Then I started, jerking up, popping my pole,
        Knocking the boat back a little.
        My face flushing as I realized
        That I had almost fallen asleep.
        I glanced over to the Bone Carver,
        Knowing that he had noticed,
        Not knowing what he would do.

        His face buried back in the shade of his hat,
        The Bone Carver gazed upon me,
        Grunting when I caught his eyes.

        - Amused? I asked.

        He nodded just slightly
        And with one slow hand, gracefully raised his pole
        Until the bait rose gleaming out of the water,
        The silver hook apparent and impaling,
        As singular and sublime as a note of music.
        The line cut the air, whispering
        As it led the hook back into his palm.
        He set his pole down upon the gunnel,
        Reached beside him and undid the anchor knot.
        The rope coiled in a puddle between us
        As he raised it out of the broken image of the sky.
        I was surprised that we weren't that deep:
        The rusting arms of the anchor's cross
        Trailed long tresses of silver green moss
        As it was set to rest within the boat.

        I lifted my line out of the water
        And was surprised to see
        That I had lost my bait.
        I swung the hook into my hand,
        Quickly rebaited it with a cricket,
        Moved the floater down,
        And let it fall back into the Lake.
        I didn't know what the Bone Carver was up to
        But figured to keep my line in the water
        Just in case.

        The Bone Carver took up a paddle
        And sunk its blades deep into the water.
        With a few long strokes, we were drifting,
        Spinning slowly around, towards the shore.

        An willow draped its branches over the surface
        Far enough out to let us ease the boat inside.
        Light filtered through green and yellow,
        Falling into the shallows,
        Which were slightly luminous.
        I looked over the side
        And could see clear to the bottom
        As we rested only a couple of feet above.
        Undulated ripples in the sand
        Were broken and marked by light tracings,
        The Lake's scripture always erasing
        Under the constant wave of the water.

        The Bone Carver lit up his pipe,
        Watching me closely,
        Measuring my patience
        And my capacities for quiet.
        I'd be damned if I was going to say a word,
        If I was going to let the thousand natural questions
        Within me have a voice.

        The long branches of the willow
        Licked against the lips of the water,
        Teasing the surface,
        Under which I noticed tiny fish darting up
        And away from the branch's ends.

        Just then, from far across the Lake,
        I thought I heard a distant bell.
        Through the curtain of the willow
        I scanned the dirt road that ran
        Over the Ancient Dam.
        Again, I heard a sound,
        This time like laughter,
        And I watched the sky
        For a turkey buzzard or a crow.
        And again, the laughter.

        Then, emerging from the pine forest
        Along one side of the Ancient Dam,
        A man riding a large black ox.

        He was laughing like crazy,
        Throwing his head all around,
        Letting go with great whoops of joy.
        I figured him to be either drunk or insane.
        Glancing quickly back to the Bone Carver,
        I was surprised to see that he was smiling,
        As if he were about to meet an old friend.

        I turned back to the man and the ox,
        A strange sense of surreal familiarity
        Settling within me.
        The ox ambled slowly and steadily across,
        Apparently used to the wild laughter
        And shaking of the man upon its back.

        Then, with a great yelp of surprise,
        The man fell off the ox.

        I half expected the ox to keep right on going,
        But it stopped, looked back at the man
        In what I imagined to be a mixture
        Of relief and disgust.
        The man was carrying on even louder
        With his hysterical wailing,
        Rolling around in the dust of the road.
        The ox took a few steps to the side
        And began to eat some grass growing there.

        I heard the Bone Carver laugh quietly,
        A laughter meant only for himself.
        I turned back to look at him.
        But he wouldn't catch my gaze,
        Staring out over me to the man.
        I was on the verge of asking him 
        What was going on,
        But he suddenly nodded my attention
        Back to the man.

        He had now gotten himself back upon his feet
        And was busy brushing the dust off himself.
        After a moment, he stretched his arms high up
        Over his head, like he owned the whole world,
        And casually walked over to the ox.
        With familiar grace, he climbed back up
        On the beast.
        Then they continued along their way,
        Passing over the Ancient Dam
        And out of sight.

        When they had completely disappeared,
        I turned again to the Bone Carver,
        Who was now tapping out the bowl of his pipe,
        And asked him:

        - Do you know who that was?

        Before he could answer me,
        My forgotten pole jumped in my hands,
        My floater was going fast away
        As I quickly pulled back to set the hook.
        But I wasn't quick enough
        And the empty hook ripped out of the water,
        Flying over my head into the branches,
        Winding itself around and through and over.
        I gave the line a halfhearted tug,
        Knowing there would be no way to work it free.

        The Bone Carver laughed his usual way
        That told me for the millionth time:
        You got to always pay attention
        When you leave your line in the water.
        Then he stood up, grabbed my line
        And with his knife, cut me away.
        And he told me:

        - There waddnt any sens in tryin to unsnaggles dat mess.

        And that was it.
        He pushed us free of the willow's cover,
        And we headed in,
        Across the lake,
        Back to the Boathouse.

        As we were tying up in the dock,
        I asked again about the man and the ox.

        The Bone Carver gave me a look
        That I could almost hear saying:
        Son, don't you know a goddamned thing?
        But instead of that, he surprised me,
        Saying:

        - Best to stops thinkin questions and star keepin eye
        Eye on dat floater. Maybe Big One gon git you twice
        Today.

        I didn't know what the hell he was talking about.
        But I didn't say anything.
        I started thinking though about it a lot,
        Trying to imagine exactly what it was
        That I had missed seeing there.
        But it was like I was fishing there
        Without anything on my hook.
        I had a sense that it wouldn't be the last time
        That I'd be cutting my line out the branches.

***
 

 



This work is licensed by S. Casey, Bonesy Jones & L.B.D.L. under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.




one Carver III
- Cutting Away -

***
    Our concern was speech, and speech impelled us
    To purify the dialect of the tribe
    And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight.
                            - T S Eliot

***

        One day the Bone Carver and I were fishing
        Up by the Old Mill Pond.
        The Lake was as smooth as a mirror
        And the boat sat still upon its reflection.

        The bamboo pole lay ready in my hands,
        Balanced and loose, ready to whip up and away
        At the slightest tremble of the floater.
        With my entire mind I watched
        The unmoving mystery of that red and white sphere,
        Fastened upon its double in the water,
        A still point of timelessness,
        A signal so weighted with possibility
        That I could barely believe the thin line
        Enough to hold it above the surface.
        At any instant, it would be gone,
        Fallen out of the universe,
        Like a star's ancient light.
        And my imagination would be left forlorn,
        Unattached and unable to act
        In the ringed wake of such an absence.

        It was the center, the gravity,
        Of my every thought. And yet....
        My attention wavered, wondering
        Away from my body, from the two hands
        That held ready, seemingly, without my thinking.

        We had been in this same place
        For such a long time
        Without catching a single fish,
        Without getting even a hint of a bite.
        The sitar drone of the cicadas wound round
        The siren silence of the sun.
        And my eyes began to see into the floater,
        Where the tails of red waves circled
        Out of the heads of a white waves,
        The heart of a fire smoking with a line of time,
        Rising into a night sky so full of starlight
        That I imagined the shell of the world
        Might be shattering.

        Then I started, jerking up, popping my pole,
        Knocking the boat back a little.
        My face flushing as I realized
        That I had almost fallen asleep.
        I glanced over to the Bone Carver,
        Knowing that he had noticed,
        Not knowing what he would do.

        His face buried back in the shade of his hat,
        The Bone Carver gazed upon me,
        Grunting when I caught his eyes.

        - Amused? I asked.

        He nodded just slightly
        And with one slow hand, gracefully raised his pole
        Until the bait rose gleaming out of the water,
        The silver hook apparent and impaling,
        As singular and sublime as a note of music.
        The line cut the air, whispering
        As it led the hook back into his palm.
        He set his pole down upon the gunnel,
        Reached beside him and undid the anchor knot.
        The rope coiled in a puddle between us
        As he raised it out of the broken image of the sky.
        I was surprised that we weren't that deep:
        The rusting arms of the anchor's cross
        Trailed long tresses of silver green moss
        As it was set to rest within the boat.

        I lifted my line out of the water
        And was surprised to see
        That I had lost my bait.
        I swung the hook into my hand,
        Quickly rebaited it with a cricket,
        Moved the floater down,
        And let it fall back into the Lake.
        I didn't know what the Bone Carver was up to
        But figured to keep my line in the water
        Just in case.

        The Bone Carver took up a paddle
        And sunk its blades deep into the water.
        With a few long strokes, we were drifting,
        Spinning slowly around, towards the shore.

        An willow draped its branches over the surface
        Far enough out to let us ease the boat inside.
        Light filtered through green and yellow,
        Falling into the shallows,
        Which were slightly luminous.
        I looked over the side
        And could see clear to the bottom
        As we rested only a couple of feet above.
        Undulated ripples in the sand
        Were broken and marked by light tracings,
        The Lake's scripture always erasing
        Under the constant wave of the water.

        The Bone Carver lit up his pipe,
        Watching me closely,
        Measuring my patience
        And my capacities for quiet.
        I'd be damned if I was going to say a word,
        If I was going to let the thousand natural questions
        Within me have a voice.

        The long branches of the willow
        Licked against the lips of the water,
        Teasing the surface,
        Under which I noticed tiny fish darting up
        And away from the branch's ends.

        Just then, from far across the Lake,
        I thought I heard a distant bell.
        Through the curtain of the willow
        I scanned the dirt road that ran
        Over the Ancient Dam.
        Again, I heard a sound,
        This time like laughter,
        And I watched the sky
        For a turkey buzzard or a crow.
        And again, the laughter.

        Then, emerging from the pine forest
        Along one side of the Ancient Dam,
        A man riding a large black ox.

        He was laughing like crazy,
        Throwing his head all around,
        Letting go with great whoops of joy.
        I figured him to be either drunk or insane.
        Glancing quickly back to the Bone Carver,
        I was surprised to see that he was smiling,
        As if he were about to meet an old friend.

        I turned back to the man and the ox,
        A strange sense of surreal familiarity
        Settling within me.
        The ox ambled slowly and steadily across,
        Apparently used to the wild laughter
        And shaking of the man upon its back.

        Then, with a great yelp of surprise,
        The man fell off the ox.

        I half expected the ox to keep right on going,
        But it stopped, looked back at the man
        In what I imagined to be a mixture
        Of relief and disgust.
        The man was carrying on even louder
        With his hysterical wailing,
        Rolling around in the dust of the road.
        The ox took a few steps to the side
        And began to eat some grass growing there.

        I heard the Bone Carver laugh quietly,
        A laughter meant only for himself.
        I turned back to look at him.
        But he wouldn't catch my gaze,
        Staring out over me to the man.
        I was on the verge of asking him 
        What was going on,
        But he suddenly nodded my attention
        Back to the man.

        He had now gotten himself back upon his feet
        And was busy brushing the dust off himself.
        After a moment, he stretched his arms high up
        Over his head, like he owned the whole world,
        And casually walked over to the ox.
        With familiar grace, he climbed back up
        On the beast.
        Then they continued along their way,
        Passing over the Ancient Dam
        And out of sight.

        When they had completely disappeared,
        I turned again to the Bone Carver,
        Who was now tapping out the bowl of his pipe,
        And asked him:

        - Do you know who that was?

        Before he could answer me,
        My forgotten pole jumped in my hands,
        My floater was going fast away
        As I quickly pulled back to set the hook.
        But I wasn't quick enough
        And the empty hook ripped out of the water,
        Flying over my head into the branches,
        Winding itself around and through and over.
        I gave the line a halfhearted tug,
        Knowing there would be no way to work it free.

        The Bone Carver laughed his usual way
        That told me for the millionth time:
        You got to always pay attention
        When you leave your line in the water.
        Then he stood up, grabbed my line
        And with his knife, cut me away.
        And he told me:

        - There waddnt any sens in tryin to unsnaggles dat mess.

        And that was it.
        He pushed us free of the willow's cover,
        And we headed in,
        Across the lake,
        Back to the Boathouse.

        As we were tying up in the dock,
        I asked again about the man and the ox.

        The Bone Carver gave me a look
        That I could almost hear saying:
        Son, don't you know a goddamned thing?
        But instead of that, he surprised me,
        Saying:

        - Best to stops thinkin questions and star keepin eye
        Eye on dat floater. Maybe Big One gon git you twice
        Today.

        I didn't know what the hell he was talking about.
        But I didn't say anything.
        I started thinking though about it a lot,
        Trying to imagine exactly what it was
        That I had missed seeing there.
        But it was like I was fishing there
        Without anything on my hook.
        I had a sense that it wouldn't be the last time
        That I'd be cutting my line out the branches.

***