Chapman River

By | 1 July 1997

At dusk, on a narrow path by the Chapman River, trying to locate myself,
I peel the skin from a honey-locust thorn, and watch black ants
move along a branch. The ants have made a dark stain on the bark
from countless single-file journeyings. When I cut a line through them
with the thorn, they back up, spreading into each other like grey water.
Kneeling in mud beside the river, counting the three-forked
prints of waterbirds, a sandfly with vertical stripes on its abdomen
lands on my arm. I imagine a pair of herons high-stepping
through a cloud of midges to investigate a soft splash near a willow snag.
I see a sand fly bloating itself on my blood, and stab myself
absent-mindedly with the thorn. Concentrating on the sting
its poison makes, I watch the ants until it’s too dark to see
their feelers waving, place my ear above the bark, and listen to them
collide, pause, move on. I locate myself. I give myself names:
waterbird, black ant, footprint, peeled thorn.

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