Jeffrey Ewing The 2River View, 5.4 (Summer 2001)

The Sturgeon

The heat came suddenly, like a threat, turning the sky white
And raising dust devils from the furrows,
Dropped onto the slough, licked into the tules,
And began draining the green from the buffalo grass and the star thistles.
The raw, pawed mud of the pasture hardened instantly
Under the Angus bull's belly, the cupped hoof prints
Suddenly as substantial as Mexican pots,
Empty jars in the shape of luck.

It touched everything at once, a thorough, sapping change
Spreading through the world, or this part at least,
This small enveined island where the chittering sounds of pumps
Starting up called back and forth like cicadas presaging the dry to come.
Almost tangible it fell over the shoulder of the levee and into the water,
Spread like a slick, and touched by chance the back of the sturgeon
That chose now to rise for the first time in three days
From the monk's cell of its blind mud-burrow.

He felt it on his back immediately, searing in its contrast,
A sharp "thwick" like a knife blade on his scales, tickling like death,
And the dead sky blinding in its emptiness that was so unlike that
          other emptiness,
His emptiness, that he carried with him from the bottom like a gift.
He flicked his tail and stirred a wake across the surface of the slough,
Watching the wave shards as they fled and then returned, tentative as ants,
To lick against him again, to tempt him with the promise of the surface,
The brightness of the hook, the certainty of the gaff.

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2River All is well.