You don’t want to hit a tree,

he said

(and I agreed).

And when you go over the falls,

don’t do it the usual way:

get down and hang on,

and if you go under,

make like a ball,

and please,

if you pop up,

don’t float all the way to the Columbia.

Swim to shore and we’ll all have

a better day.

Comes a time


He came to me hang-dog,

sat down on the porch

of the little cabin I had.

Was there anything for

the misty trail and blank diffusion,

the locked-out midlife

and dry, throat-clearing

apology for not having done

– what?

He didn’t even know,

only that it was bad.

And what did I have

to offer? Nothing but

my own head hung,

the cracked and weathered grain

of the planks under my feet,

and the assumption that I wouldn’t

be in his shoes

twenty years hence.