Following the Light ~ Julie L. Moore

after On Grand River, oil on canvas, 42” x 50 ½”, by Frank Weston Benson, c. 1920

High noon, the water bright as the idea
the man had thirty minutes ago
when he set sail in his canoe,
alone, long wooden pole in hand,
flinging his orange vest onto the seat,
seeking nothing but a certain slant
of light, not even a single fish,
in the midst of summer in 1920
and the Grand River:

Behind him is another life,
maybe a wife, maybe children,
wondering where he’s off to now,
prone to wander as he often is,
not far from home, never
in an untrue manner,
but still, disappearing on days like this
once the urgent work is finished,
glint in his eye giving him away

to the old dog, the only one
who catches him as he
grabs his hat and heads out back.
The hound knows this is no hunting trip
into the woods, no trek up the mountainside,
knows to stay put and return to his dreams
of raccoon chases and bones buried
within reach. What the man does
in the canoe is a balancing act:

As the blue-tailed damselflies flit and flash,
he hunches, slides the pole to the mud below
and pushes down, pushes forward,
pursuing the prism—Monet’s palette
of yellow, green, orange, purple,
and blue in every hue,
all rippling in the pines on the shoreline
and farther still, in the current yet to come,
something swift, something slow.