At evening when the lamp is lit,
Around the fire my parents sit;
They sit at home and talk and sing,
And do not play at anything.
Now, with my little gun, I crawl
All in the dark along the wall,
And follow round the forest track
Away behind the sofa back.
There, in the night, where none can spy,
All in my hunter’s camp I lie,
And play at books that I have read
Till it is time to go to bed.
These are the hills, these are the woods,
These are my starry solitudes;
And there the river by whose brink
The roaring lions come to drink.
I see the others far away
As if in firelit camp they lay,
And I, like to an Indian scout,
Around their party prowled about.
So, when my nurse comes in for me,
Home I return across the sea,
And go to bed with backward looks
At my dear land of Story-books.
In this shallow creek
they flop and writhe forward as the dead
float back toward them. Oh, I know
what I should say: fierce burning in the body
as her eggs burst free, milky cloud
of sperm as he quickens them. I should stand
on the bridge with my camera,
frame the white froth of rapids where one
arcs up for an instant in its final grace.
But I have to go down among
the rocks the glacier left
and squat at the edge of the water
where a stinking pile of them lies,
where one crow balances and sinks
its beak into a gelid eye.
I have to study the small holes
gouged into their skin, their useless gills,
their gowns of black flies. I can’t
make them sing. I want to,
but all they do is open
their mouths a little wider
so the water pours in
until I feel like I’m drowning.
On the bridge the tour bus waits
and someone waves, and calls down
It’s time, and the current keeps lifting
dirt from the bottom to cover the eggs.