It’s famous. “Best trout fishing stream in America.” Here, the river doglegs, forming a pool Eakins’ boys would have loved if they’d lived near, flat, man-sized rocks to sun on, a hemp rope, high as a silo, tied for years to an old oak branch still able to support two or three grown men swinging over the waters, frothy where deepest, to dive or cannon-ball in. Summer is such a kingdom on the Battenkill. Idling bird song.
Folks on inner tubes floating by. Beyond Gerald’s and Bob’s, it curves past bridge and silent mill. In the corner of yards, on the border of farms, headstones stand erect or lie half- buried, well-kept or moss-covered, some chiseled with dates older than the Battle of Saratoga. Small American flags, some wind-shredded, memorialize the fallen. Its planks peeling like infested redwood, fathomless pits gaping between boards, a barn forms a backdrop of sorts to a terrace, one of three edged by brush and rocks, that descend to the water. Fenced on both sides by fragments of stele or bits of monuments no longer standing or long torn down, its path narrows like an isosceles triangle to a point where a girl’s beautiful head carved, etched from granite rests on a tall wood plinth. The woman who posed for it now is dead, lying only a few miles away under her own stone, guarded fancifully by giant sculpted dogs.
Memory is a heraclitean flow none can cross the same, unchanged, each time. I barely met her, spent much of our one afternoon together talking Faulkner with her and her husband, saying how in his art landscape, place, is always part of us and the past races past us faster than the future can try to catch up–or something like that. Who knows anymore? The face she wore was an old woman’s graced by joy like Hals’ Malle Babbe, an owl, wise to age, also darkly perching on her shoulder, the girl she was and is in the sculpted portrait still visible, as if life were endless, streaming like the Battenkill under winter’s ice, fighting to stay river.
from The Outerlands, BrickHouse Books, 2011
Read more of Peter Weltner’s poetry in
DM 108 ~ Pride
Now open @ http://www.dansemacabremagazine.com
Peter Weltner has published six books of fiction, including The Risk of His Music and How the Body Prays, and, in 2017, The Return of What’s Been Lost, five poetry chapbooks, among them The One-Winged Body and Water’s Eye (both in collaboration with the artist Galen Garwood), and six full length collections of poetry, News from the World at My Birth: A History, The Outerlands, To the Final Cinder, Stone Altars, Late Summer Storm in Early Winter (with photographs and paintings by Galen Garwood), and most recently The Light of the Sun Become Sea. He and his husband live in San Francisco by the ocean.
Danse Macabre is proud to name Peter Weltner our 2017 Artist-in-Residence. May our dedicated Macabristas delight in his wondrous poetics in both DM and DM du Jour throughout the year – and heartfelt thanks to Peter for his generosity in sharing his artistry with us. Cent’anni!