Round Pond
by Kelley Jean White

Always twilight. I pull the heavy oars
through dark water until we balance,
cool air and water, night stilling, silent,
but for the living web of insect song spun
to our skin. We could hear a fly
settle on the face of the pond, hear the fish
rise to meet it, the still circles of each rise
ringing out until each fish’s hunger met
our wooden boat and quavered back.

Night birds dipped, smooth swallows,
flickering bats; no human sound
but the shipped oars dripping and
the shirr, shirr, shirr as my father gathered
the line in his palm for the cast,
the quick run-out as the trout pulled taut,
the moonlit silver dulling in the dark creel.

My father knew each hatch, which mayflies
lived for only one night’s flight, or two,
or three, or five. He knew the larva
and the nymphs, each swimming, clinging,
crawling stage. He’d catch a chrysalis
on the net’s edge to watch the rough husk split
then dry and enter air. So many white wings.

He’d lean a moment, the lit match quick
against his young face, the cigarette cupped,
match shaken, his hands brisk to tie a leader
or untangle a knot. I wet a finger. No wind.
Moon. I lay on the bottom of the drifting
boat, rocking, palms open to stars, so many
risings, light, sound, circles, whispers of fish,
my father dim in the bow, casting and reeling in,
my whispering breath, the water gentling,
lapping, and he rowed us swiftly home.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Round Pond” is a real place in my little hometown, Gilford, New Hampshire. I wanted to capture the twilight moments with my father whose fishing hat still hangs on a hook by the door though he died in 1999. I hoped to include all the senses and sounds of those evenings. The poem was included in an on-line chapbook Every poem I write for my father is called twilight, published by Tamaphyr Mountain Poetry, and in a featured poet section of Schuylkill Valley Journal of the Arts Spring, 2009. I hope my father would have liked it, but I didn’t send poems out for consideration for publication until shortly after his death.

IMAGE: “Gilford, New Hampshire, pond in winter” by Mim White. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pediatrician Kelley White worked in inner city Philadelphia and now works in rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in journals including Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her most recent books are Toxic Environment (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame  (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.