Still Waters and History
When you were fifteen you ran here.
It is a hidden place, this mill pond
with its ancient cypress and black water.
There are bass in the water the size of your arm,
and snakes drop off tree limbs.
At the far end, beaver live,
their humpbacked home of limbs and mud
housing families of these industrial pests
who build their dams and flood the water.
Back then, in the days of running away,
my grandfather would dynamite their homes and dams,
and the work would begin again.
Now that he is decades gone, the beavers have won.
It is their pond. I am just a visitor.
There is a cabin at one end.
My father and grandfather built it the year before I was born,
a one-room lean-to, logs and concrete caulking with a tin roof.
Rustic doesn’t begin to describe it.
There is a grate for fire in one corner.
A dirt floor.
Here and there, daylight shines through the walls.
Ducks swim, then fly as you walk to the shore.
You hear a buck snort in the distance,
alert to your presence,
not yet afraid, but ready to be at the slightest wrong move.
It is their pond, I am just a visitor.
I come here far more often than my presence indicated.
It is where I go, deep in my mind,
When things become overwhelming.
Not a hiding place, as it was so many years ago,
but a place to go towards, a peace found nowhere else.
Eyes shut, I am fifteen again, and the peace of that place
soaks into my overwhelmed bones,
near to breaking,
but saved, time and time again by still waters
About this poem
There’s more truth than usual in this one. There is a mill pond on what was my grandfather’s farm in Surry County, Virginia. It was then and is now, the most peaceful place I know.
I once ran away from home at fifteen. I ended up there. My grandfather knew and I suspect he told my parents, who did not seem unduly disturbed when I came back home.
When life is crazy, I call this place up in my head to calm myself down. I’ve become quite proficient at it in the last twelve years or so.