WHAT ISN’T THE THING WE THINK IT IS by Peter Markus
I cannot break this pattern I’m in,
this strange loop or figure eight I walk
between river, woods and marsh.
My dog looks up at me as if to say
not this again, but then she remains
steady by my side, a faithful companion.
Inside a moving cloud I see what I think
is a floating fire but then it disappears
to become again what must be the sun.
We are fooled often to see what isn’t
the thing we think it is. I’m often led
to believe that the birds that follow me
on my walks are feathered versions
of my father. Why not the bass and pike
I catch and always throw back without
so much as a goodbye. Fish are miraculous
too even if they swim and cannot fly.
The river is its own kind of sky for us
to gaze down inside even if there isn’t
as much to see. There are weeds
growing up from the bottom, reaching
for the sunlight that summons them
to grow. There are schools of minnows
moving in their watery constellations.
There are ducks and geese and swans
taking a break from the sky. Even trees
sometimes end up in the river, floating
downriver with birds sometimes still
sitting in their branches. What difference
does it make in the end? Water, dirt
or mud, the sky with its pockets of light.
Who needs a reason to fly? Call it
what it is, a place for us to take
our walks and come back the next day
loving every inch of it, praising every minute
we have left. That same old song.
Who among us does not want our last
words to be a love song. Until then,
I stand as tall as I can, then lay down
where once I was, looking as if I’ve fallen,
knowing this is all we have left to fall back on,
this small patch of earth holding us up.