It’s just after noon on the headwaters
of the Pigeon River, the spine
of Fork Ridge stretched out behind me
green and golden in the sunlight,
the hills rejoicing on every side,
and I have been catching brook trout
since late morning, the silly darlings
almost leaping into my hands,
their sides passionately ablaze
beneath their vermiculate patterns.
Perhaps a prick of hunger sends them
to a Hare’s Ear or Yellow Sally with their
hidden barbs, or maybe they think we live
in a world far kinder than we do:
their gaping mouths speak in parables.
Follow the water downstream and you’ll slide
below gorges wreathed by laurel
and rhododendron to Lake Logan,
where Champion Lumber, done trimming
the forest of its timber, flooded Sunburst.
Keep going north, as I will at dusk,
and you’ll flatten out just past Bethel.
The river widens, slows down, its purling eddies
keep turning back to the south, like a man
who doesn’t want to get where he’s going,
and up ahead you see the stacks
of Blue Ridge Paper belching golden steam,
the sky glows, the river glows, and when the peaks
that rise up behind are lit with sundown,
it looks like the mill the town the mountains
and the whole world is on fire.