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Bone Carver 4: The Big One

Bone Carver IV
The Big One

BONE CARVER IV

- The Big One -



"The conjecture is that 'God' is,
not because our grammar is outworn;
but that grammar lives and generates worlds
because there is the wager on God."- G Steiner



        It was one of those mid-summer days
        Where the sun beats down upon the world
        Like a hammer, ringing steadily, without mercy,
        Throughout the stillness of the burning world,
        Emptying even the shadows of color,
        Filling the earth with such an intensity of heat
        That I could easily imagine the enormity the lake
        Evaporating away, collapsing and coalescing
        Suddenly into a cloud
        And drifting merely upwards
        Into an abysmal dissolution.

        The tarmac road beneath my feet
        Gave like a sponge, sinking, squeezing out
        The essence of oil, the intoxicating fragrance
        Of organic decay, of bones and the dust of bones
        Fissured out of the stone, black tears of time.

        Down the old road, past the bridge
        With treadless tires for railing,
        Home for yellow jackets,
        And even they had poised themselves
        Upon their paper nests
        In motionless insect postures of rest.

        Around the heavy walls of the Ice House,
        Humming with possibilities,
        Images of minnows frozen in formation
        Inside clear and solid blocks of ice.

        Under the bowers of Morning Glory,
        Down the shady steps
        Into the comforting coolness of
        The Boathouse.

        All of the boats were in their docks.
        Walking slowly along, I admired the
        Theme and variation of each:
        Rich varnished wood with pillowed seats,
        Curved and flat prows, sterns, keels,
        Elaborate oarlocks and anchor rigs,
        Flat bottomed, planked, curved, logged,
        Turned rings of wood lapped and grooved
        Into a the persistent necessity for buoyancy,
        Sublime proofs against the water.

        The walkway sounded softly with my stepping.
        I could hear the Bone Carver working
        Beyond the crowded Tackroom,
        Out back by the Baithouse.
        I left off my dreams of the magnificent boat
        That I would someday construct
        And went on back to see
        What he was doing.

        He had one of the boats turned over
        And resting upon two sawhorses.
        It looked to me as if he were repairing a leak.
        I asked him by way of greetings:

        - Fixing a hole?

        He laughed and smiled over at me.
        Replied:

        - Dats bess way o sayin it I heard in some time.
        You might be bit smarter than you looks.

        - Well, that's what you're doing, isn't it?

        Laughing again,
        He sat back from his work, said:

        - Speck so. Problem here is findin dat hole to fix.
        Holes has funny way of not being where yous look
        For em to be.

        I finally got it,
        Tried to recover by saying:

        - Well, why don't you just look where the hole
        Didn't used to be? 

        The Bone Carver shook his head
        And set back to his work.
        I told him how my Grandfather
        Had told me that it was too hot to fish,
        That all the fish took to the deeps of the Lake
        To stay cool and that he didn't have any line
        Long enough to reach down there.
        And, besides, it seemed to me that the fish
        Wouldn't want to eat anything that
        They couldn't see, since I imagined that
        Even the sun's light, even like it was today,
        Couldn't reach down into those deeps
        Where all the fish were hiding.

        The Bone Carver grunted and kept to his work.
        I had a feeling that all my talking
        Was bothering him some,
        That every word I said was only digging me
        Deep into my own sort of hole,
        But I didn't have anyone else to talk to
        About all these thoughts that were
        Swimming around my head.

        I asked him why it was that
        You couldn't tie a bunch of lines together
        And put really heavy sinkers on it,
        And no floater at all,
        And cast it down into the deepest,
        Darkest part of the Lake,
        And put a really sharp hook on it
        With a big juicy bait,
        And if then you couldn't catch there
        A really big one?

        The Bone Carve stopped working
        And grabbed a black bottle off the ground.
        He carefully removed the stopper from its mouth
        And poured a little of its contents
        On to the seam of wood there exposed on the boat.
        A rich and difficult odor surrounded me,
        Filling me with warmth and pleasure,
        Stroking my spine in shivers,
        As if I were being swung high into the air
        And at the highest point,
        Held and not dropped,
        With my stomach tickling,
        Like a ringing bell rung out
        Into a single sound undying.

        The worried knot of all those strange
        And imagined thoughts fell undone
        And I forgot even the language
        To speak them out again.

        Only after the Bone Carver
        Had restopped the mouth of the black bottle
        And the odor drifted away
        Did any words turn back to me.
        I asked him:

        - What was that stuff you just poured on that boat?

        He held the bottle up to the light
        And I saw clouds churning inside.
        Then he set it high up on a shelf
        And said:

        - Dats how you fix a hole you cant fine. Getchoo
        Some pinesap and make up a mess o pitch. Itsa
        Mystery for certain that. But fo dat, aint none o dese
        Boats be floatin anywheres. Its da pitch dat keep da
        Boat afloat. Mighty hart to go fishin on a single piece
        O wood, yessiree.

        - But why does it take all my words away like that?

        - Dat somethin I can't tells to you.

        He came over to me.
        He put his hand around my neck and squeezed.
        I continued:

        - You don't know?

        - I cant say, dats all. Best you tries not to thinks
        Too much about what holds boats gethers.

        My thoughts sifted through his words
        Slowly, reluctant to let them go.
        The Bone Carver went into the Baithouse.
        I looked up towards the shelf
        Where he had placed the black bottle
        And I imagined breathing deep
        The breath of a sleeping dragon.
        And I imagined a fish like a dragon
        Lurking in the profound trenches
        Of the Lake, sleeping, dreaming,
        Upon the verge of waking.

        I followed him into the Baithouse.
        The Bone Carver was turning the black soil
        Of the worm boxes with a pitchfork,
        The flesh colored worms 
        Spun in frenzy around the tines,
        Some cut and showing yellow blood.
        Again and again, he sank the fork in,
        Turning the soil gracefully,
        Slipping from box to box.
        I sat upon the edge of one,
        Watching, thinking more and more
        About how to catch a big one,
        Finally saying:

        - I'm trying to get it out of my head.
        But I can't. I keep thinking about catching a big one.
        I wonder if you would show me,
        Teach me where to find it and what-

        - Why you want dis Ole Big One so bad here?

        - Cause I won't be able to get it out of my head
        Until I catch one. I can't stop thinking about it.

        - Might be long while you spend fishin
        Fore you catch Big One. Dere be some
        Dont never catch dat One.

        - But if you help me, I'll catch one of them.
        And then I'll be a great fisherman.

        - Lissen: You already good fisherman.
        You was born dere good fisherman. 
        Firs thing that you not good fisherman
        Is thinkin dat catchin da Big One
        Gon make you somethin mo.

        Those words came out hard to me.
        I stayed quiet but I wasn't going to let it go.
        I couldn't. But then something in his saying
        Opened up to me.
        I said:

        - You talk like there is only one Big One.

        - Dat be truth.

        - But over at the Clubhouse,
        There's lots of Big Ones up on the walls.

        The Bone Carver stopped turning the earth
        And set the pitchfork down,
        Came over to me and reached out his hand.
        I took it and he pulled me up,
        Led me back into the Boathouse,
        Saying:

        - Im gon tells you and shows you somethin
        Dat yous gon has hart time unnerstandin.
        But you just take it in and set it dere
        In your memberin. Dont go off
        And start askin me buncho questions.
        You hears?

        I nodded.

        - Now dis gon be secret tween you and me.
        You gon keep it like I done tole you?

        I nodded again.

        - Now lissen good. Dont forget single word
        Of dis tellin. 

        We had reached the far end of the Boathouse
        And he had turned to squat down and face me.
        I felt on fire with anticipation, answered:

        - I won't forget.

        The Bone Carver looked straight at my eyes,
        Took hold of my shoulders, and told me:

        - Dere be only one Big One.
        And aint no one gon ever put dat
        In basket or boat or up on dere wall.
        You get this here good into you head:
        If dere ever come time dat you think
        Dat you don caught dat Big One,
        You best let go, turn dat One loose,
        Cause Big One aint never gon be caught
        Lessen to catch you. Dat square as I can say.
        Dont spect you to figure it yet.
        Butchoo will. Now lookee here.

        We stepped down onto the last plankway
        Beside an always empty dock.
        The Bone Carver laid down on his stomach
        And motioned me to do the same.
        There he looked down into the water,
        Staring down to the bottom.
        I tried to follow his gaze,
        Looking beyond the reflections
        On the surface, slowly traveling down
        Through the shallows.

        The sandy bottom, sunken stone and stick,
        Concentric lines of subtle lake tide,
        Drifts of thin gray hair-like moss,
        Then: a grace filled shadow curling
        Out of a darker shadow beneath the dock.
        Then gone: turned back in.
        I stared intently, holding my breath,
        My face close to the water.
        And there I figured it,
        The entire shadow moved with it:
        The biggest fish that I had ever seen,
        Larger than any that was in the Clubhouse,
        A scarred and ancient monster that
        I had to continually recognize anew,
        It being so outside of the expectations
        Of my inexperienced imagination.

        It flexed through the water with no effort,
        Slowly circling around and through a point
        Underneath the Boathouse,
        Appearing again, 
        Crossing over and turning
        A mysterious path of eight.

        My body began to shiver with desire.
        I felt my skin tighten and shimmer
        Across my arms and legs.
        I had never experienced such raw want,
        Such an all consuming hunger of possession.

        The Bone Carver was watching me,
        Obviously knowing my thoughts.
        There he slipped his hand under the cover
        Of the water. The fish paused.
        His hand dropped down
        Like a coin, flipping slowly over.
        His face lowering to the surface,
        His breath trembling against the water,
        His hand touched the side of the fish.

        And the fish allowed him,
        Didn't flash away, didn't strike to deep.
        It took my held breath away
        And filled me full of awe.
        I wanted and I didn't want him to do it.
        I wanted to do it.

        His fingers caressed the battered side
        Of the fish, brushing over it like a lover.
        He spread his palm and pushed it over the scales.
        And with an obvious ache, withdrew.

        His hand came up out of the water
        Shining with a mist, as if it had caught a bit of cloud,
        Luminous, bright, ethereal.

        He brought it before my face
        And touched it against my lips.
        I started to open my mouth
        But it was already in me,
        Taken in like a shared breath.

        I felt an undoing opening inside of me,
        A lightness sink into my entire being,
        And then a shuddering at the base of my spine
        That made me cry out
        Curl into a ball on the plankway.

        The Bone Carver placed his hand on me
        And said close into my ear:

        - Dats you bones laughin dere.
        Dats you bones wantin to goes home.
        Dats jussa a lil taste o God,
        An juss so you knows, das what
        Da Big One be all times.

        And I trembled there in the cool shade
        Of the Boathouse, knowing
        Guilt for the first time as a palpable thing,
        Realizing that my single life
        Was irrevocably passed beyond,
        That the harsh and barely durable
        Ambiguity of a double life
        Was now imperiously radiant
        And irredeemably housed within my core.









***


BONE CARVER IV
- The Big One -

***

"The conjecture is that 'God' is,
not because our grammar is outworn;
but that grammar lives and generates worlds
because there is the wager on God."
- G Steiner

***

It was one of those mid-summer days
Where the sun beats down upon the world
Like a hammer, ringing steadily, without mercy,
Throughout the stillness of the burning world,
Emptying even the shadows of color,
Filling the earth with such an intensity of heat
That I could easily imagine the enormity the lake
Evaporating away, collapsing and coalescing
Suddenly into a cloud
And drifting merely upwards
Into an abysmal dissolution.

The tarmac road beneath my feet
Gave like a sponge, sinking, squeezing out
The essence of oil, the intoxicating fragrance
Of organic decay, of bones and the dust of bones
Fissured out of the stone, black tears of time.

Down the old road, past the bridge
With treadless tires for railing,
Home for yellow jackets,
And even they had poised themselves
Upon their paper nests
In motionless insect postures of rest.

Around the heavy walls of the Ice House,
Humming with possibilities,
Images of minnows frozen in formation
Inside clear and solid blocks of ice.

Under the bowers of Morning Glory,
Down the shady steps
Into the comforting coolness of
The Boathouse.

All of the boats were in their docks.
Walking slowly along, I admired the
Theme and variation of each:
Rich varnished wood with pillowed seats,
Curved and flat prows, sterns, keels,
Elaborate oarlocks and anchor rigs,
Flat bottomed, planked, curved, logged,
Turned rings of wood lapped and grooved
Into a the persistent necessity for buoyancy,
Sublime proofs against the water.

The walkway sounded softly with my stepping.
I could hear the Bone Carver working
Beyond the crowded Tackroom,
Out back by the Baithouse.
I left off my dreams of the magnificent boat
That I would someday construct
And went on back to see
What he was doing.

He had one of the boats turned over
And resting upon two sawhorses.
It looked to me as if he were repairing a leak.
I asked him by way of greetings:

- Fixing a hole?

He laughed and smiled over at me.
Replied:

- Dats bess way o sayin it I heard in some time.
You might be bit smarter than you looks.

- Well, that's what you're doing, isn't it?

Laughing again,
He sat back from his work, said:

- Speck so. Problem here is findin dat hole to fix.
Holes has funny way of not being where yous look
For em to be.

I finally got it,
Tried to recover by saying:

- Well, why don't you just look where the hole
Didn't used to be? 

The Bone Carver shook his head
And set back to his work.
I told him how my Grandfather
Had told me that it was too hot to fish,
That all the fish took to the deeps of the Lake
To stay cool and that he didn't have any line
Long enough to reach down there.
And, besides, it seemed to me that the fish
Wouldn't want to eat anything that
They couldn't see, since I imagined that
Even the sun's light, even like it was today,
Couldn't reach down into those deeps
Where all the fish were hiding.

The Bone Carver grunted and kept to his work.
I had a feeling that all my talking
Was bothering him some,
That every word I said was only digging me
Deep into my own sort of hole,
But I didn't have anyone else to talk to
About all these thoughts that were
Swimming around my head.

I asked him why it was that
You couldn't tie a bunch of lines together
And put really heavy sinkers on it,
And no floater at all,
And cast it down into the deepest,
Darkest part of the Lake,
And put a really sharp hook on it
With a big juicy bait,
And if then you couldn't catch there
A really big one?

The Bone Carve stopped working
And grabbed a black bottle off the ground.
He carefully removed the stopper from its mouth
And poured a little of its contents
On to the seam of wood there exposed on the boat.
A rich and difficult odor surrounded me,
Filling me with warmth and pleasure,
Stroking my spine in shivers,
As if I were being swung high into the air
And at the highest point,
Held and not dropped,
With my stomach tickling,
Like a ringing bell rung out
Into a single sound undying.

The worried knot of all those strange
And imagined thoughts fell undone
And I forgot even the language
To speak them out again.

Only after the Bone Carver
Had restopped the mouth of the black bottle
And the odor drifted away
Did any words turn back to me.
I asked him:

- What was that stuff you just poured on that boat?

He held the bottle up to the light
And I saw clouds churning inside.
Then he set it high up on a shelf
And said:

- Dats how you fix a hole you cant fine. Getchoo
Some pinesap and make up a mess o pitch. Itsa
Mystery for certain that. But fo dat, aint none o dese
Boats be floatin anywheres. Its da pitch dat keep da
Boat afloat. Mighty hart to go fishin on a single piece
O wood, yessiree.

- But why does it take all my words away like that?

- Dat somethin I can't tells to you.

He came over to me.
He put his hand around my neck and squeezed.
I continued:

- You don't know?

- I cant say, dats all. Best you tries not to thinks
Too much about what holds boats gethers.

My thoughts sifted through his words
Slowly, reluctant to let them go.
The Bone Carver went into the Baithouse.
I looked up towards the shelf
Where he had placed the black bottle
And I imagined breathing deep
The breath of a sleeping dragon.
And I imagined a fish like a dragon
Lurking in the profound trenches
Of the Lake, sleeping, dreaming,
Upon the verge of waking.

I followed him into the Baithouse.
The Bone Carver was turning the black soil
Of the worm boxes with a pitchfork,
The flesh colored worms 
Spun in frenzy around the tines,
Some cut and showing yellow blood.
Again and again, he sank the fork in,
Turning the soil gracefully,
Slipping from box to box.
I sat upon the edge of one,
Watching, thinking more and more
About how to catch a big one,
Finally saying:

- I'm trying to get it out of my head.
But I can't. I keep thinking about catching a big one.
I wonder if you would show me,
Teach me where to find it and what-

- Why you want dis Ole Big One so bad here?

- Cause I won't be able to get it out of my head
Until I catch one. I can't stop thinking about it.

- Might be long while you spend fishin
Fore you catch Big One. Dere be some
Dont never catch dat One.

- But if you help me, I'll catch one of them.
And then I'll be a great fisherman.

- Lissen: You already good fisherman.
You was born dere good fisherman. 
Firs thing that you not good fisherman
Is thinkin dat catchin da Big One
Gon make you somethin mo.

Those words came out hard to me.
I stayed quiet but I wasn't going to let it go.
I couldn't. But then something in his saying
Opened up to me.
I said:

- You talk like there is only one Big One.

- Dat be truth.

- But over at the Clubhouse,
There's lots of Big Ones up on the walls.

The Bone Carver stopped turning the earth
And set the pitchfork down,
Came over to me and reached out his hand.
I took it and he pulled me up,
Led me back into the Boathouse,
Saying:

- Im gon tells you and shows you somethin
Dat yous gon has hart time unnerstandin.
But you just take it in and set it dere
In your memberin. Dont go off
And start askin me buncho questions.
You hears?

I nodded.

- Now dis gon be secret tween you and me.
You gon keep it like I done tole you?

I nodded again.

- Now lissen good. Dont forget single word
Of dis tellin. 

We had reached the far end of the Boathouse
And he had turned to squat down and face me.
I felt on fire with anticipation, answered:

- I won't forget.

The Bone Carver looked straight at my eyes,
Took hold of my shoulders, and told me:

- Dere be only one Big One.
And aint no one gon ever put dat
In basket or boat or up on dere wall.
You get this here good into you head:
If dere ever come time dat you think
Dat you don caught dat Big One,
You best let go, turn dat One loose,
Cause Big One aint never gon be caught
Lessen to catch you. Dat square as I can say.
Dont spect you to figure it yet.
Butchoo will. Now lookee here.

We stepped down onto the last plankway
Beside an always empty dock.
The Bone Carver laid down on his stomach
And motioned me to do the same.
There he looked down into the water,
Staring down to the bottom.
I tried to follow his gaze,
Looking beyond the reflections
On the surface, slowly traveling down
Through the shallows.

The sandy bottom, sunken stone and stick,
Concentric lines of subtle lake tide,
Drifts of thin gray hair-like moss,
Then: a grace filled shadow curling
Out of a darker shadow beneath the dock.
Then gone: turned back in.
I stared intently, holding my breath,
My face close to the water.
And there I figured it,
The entire shadow moved with it:
The biggest fish that I had ever seen,
Larger than any that was in the Clubhouse,
A scarred and ancient monster that
I had to continually recognize anew,
It being so outside of the expectations
Of my inexperienced imagination.

It flexed through the water with no effort,
Slowly circling around and through a point
Underneath the Boathouse,
Appearing again, 
Crossing over and turning
A mysterious path of eight.

My body began to shiver with desire.
I felt my skin tighten and shimmer
Across my arms and legs.
I had never experienced such raw want,
Such an all consuming hunger of possession.

The Bone Carver was watching me,
Obviously knowing my thoughts.
There he slipped his hand under the cover
Of the water. The fish paused.
His hand dropped down
Like a coin, flipping slowly over.
His face lowering to the surface,
His breath trembling against the water,
His hand touched the side of the fish.

And the fish allowed him,
Didn't flash away, didn't strike to deep.
It took my held breath away
And filled me full of awe.
I wanted and I didn't want him to do it.
I wanted to do it.

His fingers caressed the battered side
Of the fish, brushing over it like a lover.
He spread his palm and pushed it over the scales.
And with an obvious ache, withdrew.

His hand came up out of the water
Shining with a mist, as if it had caught a bit of cloud,
Luminous, bright, ethereal.

He brought it before my face
And touched it against my lips.
I started to open my mouth
But it was already in me,
Taken in like a shared breath.

I felt an undoing opening inside of me,
A lightness sink into my entire being,
And then a shuddering at the base of my spine
That made me cry out
Curl into a ball on the plankway.

The Bone Carver placed his hand on me
And said close into my ear:

- Dats you bones laughin dere.
Dats you bones wantin to goes home.
Dats jussa a lil taste o God,
An juss so you knows, das what
Da Big One be all times.

And I trembled there in the cool shade
Of the Boathouse, knowing
Guilt for the first time as a palpable thing,
Realizing that my single life
Was irrevocably passed beyond,
That the harsh and barely durable
Ambiguity of a double life
Was now imperiously radiant
And irredeemably housed within my core.