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Above the Waterfall

Ron Rash
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Though sunlight tinges the mountains, black leather-winged bodies swing low. First fireflies blink languidly. Beyond this meadow, cicadas rev and slow like sewing machines. All else ready for night except night itself. I watch last light lift off level land. Ground shadows seep and thicken. Circling trees form banks. The meadow it­self becomes a pond filling, on its surface dozens of black-eyed susans.

I sit on ground cooling, soon dew-damp. Near me a moldboard plow long left. Honeysuckle vines twine green cords, white flowers attached like Christmas lights. I touch a handle slick from wrist shifts and sweaty grips. Memory of my grandfather's hands, calluses round and smooth as worn coins. One morning I'd watched him cross the field, the steel oar rippling soil. In its wake, a caught wave of sil-lion shine. But this plow has wearied into sleep. How long lying here? Perhaps a decade, since saplings and saw briar rise amid broom sedge. Above all else, those bold yellow blossoms in full-petaled bloom. What has brought me here.

A deer emerges from the woods, nose up, stilt step then steadying pause, another hoof lifted. Dark rises around me. The black-eyed susans float like water lilies. All else disappears but they hold their yellow glow. Moon mirrors, sun ghosts. Dream abeyant. When the night-pond floods its banks, I walk the trail to the state park truck. Maybe another time, Les had answered when I invited him, claim­ing sheriff business to attend to. The trail steepens. When I look back at the meadow, only darkness.

Lascaux. What wonder to have made such a de­scent. Tar-pitched torch wood swabbing stone with light. Swerves and drops and slant downs. Dark rushing up be­hind each step. Then to find them there in the cave's hol­low core—bison and ibex, but others lost elsewhere to the world: saber cats and woolly mammoths, irish elk. All live-motioned in the wavering light, girthed by curves of stone. Amid it all the runic human handprint. Where less art's veil between us and the world? How strange that Hopkins' quill scratches let me see more. Invisioning before seeing. But the first message there inside the cave walls. What wonder yet echoes from the world's understory.