Behind the spidered roots
of a windthrown hemlock
Ursus hides
as speckled trout midstream
porpoise to eat mayflies born
with no mouth and only
two days to live.
The sides of these fish steal
orange from the mountain’s
western slope, and their red
spots, circled with blue sky,
remind Ursus of the bee balm
that grows along the stream.
In his second year he cut his left
foot as he crossed the road at the spine
of the mountain, some drunk-
thrown bottle hobbling him
until the shard caught on a log
and slid out with the ruddy smear
of a crescent moon.
Ursus prays without a word
for prayer, crawling the bank’s
edge, scattering trout
who swim under rocks.
Some call this bliss,
others Sun House.
Ursus paws the water,
ripples the light of the world
painted over tens of thousands
of years on the sides
of these fish who somehow
Two ridges to the south
a stream rusts
and nothing lives
because of the coal
our grandfathers carried
to the surface.
Ursus sits, allowing the self
to depart, and soon the fish
think the bear has become
stone and begin to rise
to the flies who are dying,
spinning to the water’s surface,
their funeral boats set adrift.

For David James Duncan