Devon Marsh served as a U.S. Navy pilot before a career in banking. His poems and essays have appeared in The Lake, Poydras Review, Black Bough Poetry, Split Rock Review, River Mouth Review, and periodicities: a journal of poetry and poetics. Devon lives in the North Carolina piedmont. He’s searching for a good home for his full-length collection.
Driftwood – Olympic Peninsula
Children throw driftwood into the sea,
rebuking the wood’s audacity.
Limbs and trunks lie ashore, bonelike
rather than a severed part of forest. Yet
the skeleton-white logs pay homage
to shadow-black forms. Trees above wave-carved
cliffs oversee the beach. Tall firs look ahead.
The firs turn from the ocean, put breath
into the sky. They look back and think
again. Children cast pieces of trees
to withdraw with the tide and feign they won’t
return when we’re gone. Tall firs regard the sea.
They look back and think of me, know
I am of the forest even as rhythmic waves
pound within my veins. How many
will pulse the shore where I stand
rooted to a spot on the sand? I take evergreen
breath from the sky, look back, breathe again.
I watch my heirs, relish their audacity.
My children throw driftwood into the sea.
Last night’s rain bowed the stream. Water cranes to peek
above the rim, see beyond the channel of its world.
On green hillsides, scattered orange firs resemble
derelict sculpture, ignored rather than poisoned,
like a forest erected when we built bridges that threaten
to collapse from negligence. How could we fail
to maintain our means of traverse? I would find
another way to you, swim a raging torrent, tasting
with each dip of my face the rusted tang of failure.
Distracted by thoughts of a crossing I won’t make,
it’s a verdant tree, lovely with life I curse when
I misjudge my cast. This is my own fault, no one else
to blame for a hook sunk to its barb in this summer’s
terminal growth. Wade ashore, cut the leader, leave
the mayfly perched above the current. Its name
—Ephemeroptera—gives a nod to its day in the sun.
Tie on line, knot nymph to tippet, eye the yellow
slice of sky backed by faience, by cobalt.
I wade in, cast again, try not to squander light.
Around me, trees agree on a color for night.
On the porch, close to 10:00 pm. Enjoying
red wine, lingering rain, thunder moving off,
songs of at least three types of frog.
Lightning flashes at greater and greater
intervals, building tolerance for a gap
that will carry to the next storm.
This is when I replay our conversation
wonder why you wondered
what I meant. And also wonder if
I should remark to you, inside, about
the storm as it subsides. Something obvious,
a point of sure agreement. The darkness
rather than what’s in it. With no flashes
I see the sheen of the screen. Pixeled black
covers the yard, drowns the pond,
obscures field and forest and sky. Night
tries to mist onto the porch like rain, pool
with shadows. The candle keeps it at bay.
I’m on the bright side listening to frogs,
replayed conversation, and receding thunder
until it’s time to blow out the flame.