NIGHT RIVER: LOCHSA
Lochsa in sélis means “rough water,” long-drawn-out
Foaming stretches hurtling down a canyon with no terraces,
Suddenly slowing down in deep green pools that slide by,
Cold and transparent, the ancestor of all clear water,
Revealing every rounded rock and hovering trout below.
Friday afternoon in mid-July, my father and I
Would leave the car at the campground, carry only creels,
Fly rods and wallets of hackles, and scramble down warm
Granite rocks, late sunlight lingering on the water
And evening fly-hatch well underway.
Our object now was dinner, keeping everything we caught.
Casting s-curved filaments of spray backlit by sunshine,
Our hackles riding above and below the rocks and riffles,
We reeled in small fry and the occasional ten-inch rainbow,
Renewing the ancient thrill of fish vibrating in our hands.
As sunlight began to work its way up cedars on the far side,
I watched my father casting into shadowy eddies,
Dark enigma within dark enigma, mind before mind.
The last rays retreated from the surface of the Lochsa,
Lengthening ponderosa fore-shadows of night.
Our object now was dinner, as we cleaned our catch
At river’s edge, and hiked back to camp in gathering dusk.
I started a fire with cedar and tamarack, as my father
Rolled fish in cornmeal to fry up with spuds in the iron skillet,
Renewing the ancient foretaste of fresh trout on the tongue.
As darkness deepened around the hissing lantern,
We unrolled sleeping bags on open ground, put out the light,
And my father began to reconstruct in words the day’s particulars:
Brown hackles versus gray, light lingering on the river,
The evening fly-hatch well underway.
Soon my father was remarking how the stars seemed so near
And so brilliant in the mountain air, and it seems to me
We were passing through a great mystery, my father’s voice
Merging with the rush of rough water and stillness,