A sampling of poems from Larry Gavin:

BEFORE STEPPING

“The words stop but the meaning keeps going on.” Basho

Let it be the moment

before stepping into the water to fish.

Flies lined up in a box like

days on a calendar. A cigar

still unlit waiting: cows,

the definition of bliss, graze along

the far bank like those things

in life we hope to never forget.

Be there in that moment.

Just before water presses and

chills against legs; the gentle

pressure of time passing.

Wait a moment and study rocks

or insects diaphanous as the skin

on a girl’s wrist, and the sky

so blue: and high, and clear,

and bright. Let it be the moment

before stepping off the bank

from solid ground to gravel

and sand, and the muck we originally

crawled out of, into a new world

that contains our better self. And

let that world last for our

own particular kind of forever.

DIGGING POST HOLES

Digging Post Holes

It is the digging, and the taking

away of dirt, that is my first love.

The solemn pile of soil climbing

beside the hole, and the revelation

of the passing layers; topsoil, rock,

sand and clay. The harmony of colors

shifting like a secret. Occasionally a gift:

tree root, or a perfect round black

rock suggests some primitive

tool. It is the progress of going

deeply to ground.

The moistness spilling

the gripping and letting go

of the small measures that pass

for progress - down below the

frost line - into the continuity

of earth. Unaffected by what

is above, the heaving of my breath,

the pulse threading through my

body, the sunshine over my shoulder,

like hope, spills into the darkness

illuminating the once still earth.

JUST OUTSIDE ABERDEEN, SOUTH DAKOTA

In my mind, I track ducks

In astonishing numbers as they circle a marsh

North of town. mallards, ring-necks, canvas backs,

Teal - they circle and spin in great dark orbits

Searching the cattails for safe passage.

And the wind, like a creature from the north,

Fuels their need to land, or failing that,

Continue south all night and out of state.

Round bales stretch to the horizon

Like monuments from some ancient

Civilization that, no doubt, worshipped

Hay.

In my mind, evening is coming on.

The dog whimpers in the cold. She senses

The urge to migrate too an urge that’s

New to her today, an urge to wander

the countryside, to go feral, to desert me

to fend for herself, take her chances

with the landscape, fight her way through it

and float upward until she becomes an idea.

We are not alone here on the edge of thought

We are doubled. Like sky in marsh water,

Like duck bellies on the surface of the sky,

And in my mind, one mallard tail feather,

Curly as a northern low, drifts to the water

Like a pendulum, back and forth,

Back and forth, until it lands - floating here

Buoyant as hope in the face of loss.

Ice Fishing At Winter Solstice

Sometimes I imagine

The darkness of late afternoon

Exists to remind me of how surely

All light will disappear. There is no

Hesitation

As the sun, in heavy clouds, declines

Behind hills; just as suddenly

All thoughts of day vanish, too.

The cold rises with Venus an evening

Star this time of year.

The world becomes a circus of circles:

Stars, the float, this hole

I stare into. I stare

As if the whole world depends on me

Being here, and staring through a hole

In ice, answering the old riddle

About what grows bigger the more

Is taken away. I could count

My losses as losses, but tonight

The world begins its graceful slide

Toward spring. Winter seems to pause

A moment; gathering itself suspended

In night: like bait suspended

By the float above the bottom,

Like ice suspended above the density

Of water, air above ice and on

Into the infinite vacuum of space.

The float tugged beneath the surface

Threatens to pull me down, too.

Instead, I draw the line tight

And set the hook.

I might as well be reeling in stars

Reflected through dark water

To just within reach, becoming a fish

That can’t live in air. My cold hands fold

Around him as if in prayer.

November

Blue bills pile up

on Tim’s slough

and the weather man,

more lost than normal,

says: rain, sunshine, snow.

But we know, the dog and I,

that city weather does not apply here

in cattails under a darkening sky.

We know too

that these ducks have flown so far

ahead of this wind

they feel they own it,

and by association

own the open water,

a kind of unmanageable daughter,

needing there attention

so they land

ending the way they began.

Behind them snow starts

delicately at first

a portent

a sign

a drifting, lacy reminder

that supper is cooking

and that these days

darkness

always arrives

faster than light.