I paddled my canoe along the shore
that morning, hearing catbirds call from the woods.
I frightened heron from their hiding place
among the cattails, chuckled when the swarm
of swallows skimmed the weedy water, clucked
at ducks who watched me at a wary length
and took applause from flocks of coots that sort
of flew, sort of ran, across the lake,
all slapping water as they went. Far off
and soft at first, there came a sound I found
so welcome that I paused, and strained to hear
it better: Fall’s first skein of geese arrived.
The first fall chill reminded me the time
for fishing here was running out. It made
me cast a little quicker. Soon, holes can
be cut through ice and good fish caught with tip-
ups, jigging poles and luck, but I will miss
the hiss of my canoe, the hum of my
old spinning reel, the warm and aimless talk
of easy friends. The yellow streaks of light
were climbing up the line where trees met sky
and let the day embrace the lake within
a gown of floating fog.
……………………. I stopped to watch
and, rocking gently on the waves
within the quiet mist, I thought of how
the birds must feel adrift on waves of wind,
concealed in clouds on unseen currents of air.
A pair of hawks, together keeping watch
from perches in trees along the water’s edge,
took wing to fly, to float, to fall in arcs
of silent yearning just above the lake.
With wings outstretched and heads hung low,
they fished in sweeping, ever wider turns.
Then talons dropped and, with a tilt of wings,
the birds would touch the lake and lift away
the tiny fish that nipped the tops of weeds.
It seemed they saw the shortened light, they felt
the autumn chill, and knew the things I thought
I knew while quickly casting from my canoe.