The Floods of Floods of Felsenthal
Every November, so says my father, the floods follow the ducks to
blue-wing teals, mallards, black ducks and gadwalls,
They gather in covens and bring the rain
which soaks the shallow roots of the loblollys
who stand evergreen over the pine-needle stratum; the rain
which gluts the earth till it brims and breaks, flooding
until it fills the basin of itself; the rain
which gives new roads to the fish, crawpie and walleye, largemouth bass
basking beneath the pine-filtered light of dawn.
As the water follows the birds, so my father follows the water.
He takes me out on its face, breaking
the water's waiting tension with the prow of our canoe.
Here two months ago my grandfather stayed, camped close.
But the flood takes it all, swallowing campsites and parking lots, slow
Southern apocalypse meandering in oxbows and bottom lands,
gathering itself in sloughs and buttonbush swamps.
Now the loblolly pines grow from water.
A small hill rises artificially high, bearing the weight of man-
made brick and mortar, restrooms for the campgrounds
when the ground was still visible.
My father sits in front of me, back to the trees,
rowing us through their shining corridors.
We say nothing and the nothing echoes
back to us across the water.
I look over the edge but cannot see
the ground only three feet below me.
The water shows me the sky and pine-lace.
I look up and see the same vision, sky and trees,
a perfect mirror of the water.
The light ripples as I move
beneath it, concentric circles radiating
from the centermost point of my eyes;
mandala in pine and sky.
The ducks watch us, augurs with webbed feet
sculling beneath the polished surface,
their buoyant bodies swiveling
to watch us pass.
They know we are not here for them.
They know the rain will soak and sink
into the land, damp leaves left like carpet
after a hurricane.
They know my father will die
some day and that I will follow him.
A tackle box sits at my feet, but my father does not
open it. Does not pull out the assemblage of jigs,
of spinners and spoons and flies.
The buzzbaits sit unsummoned, sullen
in their rubber skirts.
Today my father does not pull out the rod
or the reel.
in silence through the trees,
knowing as I know
needs to be said.
This is one of nine poems by Grace Wagner published in the Spring 2017 issue of Skidmore College's Literary Journal, Salmagundi Magazine