Strong Wind, Strange Soil
DIARY | Strong Wind, Strange Soil
Fresh rain pours into the face of the fishermen on the concrete dock beneath the great black sky of Wednesday
here at the center of everything and nothing at all. It is one of those nights of storming from the West. The rising wind flops
their hair this way and that, then back again. The fisherman to the left, closest to the thick dark river the color
of a strand of black licorice, runs his hand through his grey mop of wiry wild hair. Fingers find 6, maybe 8, flecks
of grit nestled against his scalp. They weren’t there before. Where did they, how far did they fly, borne on this
night wind, this strange soil? A guy comes down the stone steps, brushing my pant leg, down to the river he goes.
Cups his hands like he’s about to shout, only it’s a flare that lights up his face a moment, a brief orange sunburst.
Then, out. His face in shadows once again. He hands the blue-glass pipe to a friend just done pissing in the
fast-running water, his piss now two hundred yards downstream, it went past the fishermen. He, too, cups
his face against the torrent of wind. Seeing them struggle with a Bic, I lend them my jet lighter, gun-metal patina
gone orange from five years of fingering it to light up things, candles, joints, woodstove fires, but which would this
evening torch the soggy stub of tonight’s cigar. They’re glad I’ve brought a fire than can withstand the wind that brings
this earth into my scalp and to the fishermen, trying to pluck out of the wide Kanawha a fish to eat. Or maybe
just to rip out of the cold strong water a carp or spotted bass, a flathead catfish, a muskellunge or walleye,
a sunfish or a smallmouth buffalo, maybe a skipjack herring or a paddlefish, and to return it with the slightest plash,
wounded but still free to swim on beneath the river’s million tiny waves, after the achievement of its capture.
~ charleston, w.va. | june 27, 2013