Lamoille River

The following poem and photograph were first published in the March/April issue of Vermont Magazine, 2010. 

Lamoille River from Poland Covered Bridge

Lamoille River 
At first I’d thought the wood smoke
had snuck down along the river. I’d seen
it settle in the valley many times
with new morning sky shining
above the smothered wedge of farm
land and railroad tracks.
But it wasn’t wood smoke
                                                                                                                                                                         come creeping down,
it was just one long,
low-hanging cloud,
clinging to the Lamoille all the way
from Jeffersonville to Johnson,
the best view of it being
at Willow Crossing. The cloud twisted
with the bends and backtracked
as the river crept towards the road.
It was as though the cloud
had found a mirror and was having
a hard time pulling itself away
from its own soft reflection.
But it was the river, frozen
above her secrets
that held the beauty
of  winters
and summers behind winters
that have curled year upon year
as Wintegok
the  marrow of the Green Mountains,
as the same river where I push my canoe
under Poland Covered Bridge, drift
until I’m under the railroad trestle,
hidden by the sumac and weedy maples reaching
for the water. The boys my girls went to school
with used to jump from it, as boys have done
for a century or so, as boys still do
aiming carefully for the drop
among the ledge.  I drift to the bend
through the shallow riffles
up from the Junction to the Center to the Boro
where men cut ice with mammoth saws
as the open water rushed
along beside them. They kept the ice
under sawdust through August
and into the fall, used it sparingly to pack
milk cans until they were hauled
to the valley creamery
in the morning. Lamoille’s current floated
logs and spit them out to Kwenosakek,
Place of the Pike, in Lake Champlain,
and on south to The Hudson,
all done before we were plugged in,
in 1941, all done before
1927 when the railroad had come undone,
leaving the trestle for ghosts and snowmobiles.
Lamoille comes down from Hardwick way
the same it has done  since glaciers
helped birth it. We play in it,
sometimes naked, and it worked
for us at the talc mine and down the dam;
It’s the same current
that has always fed the people since the dawn,
the same current that still drowns our children
in the spring, the same current
that washes away our iced up hearts
and threads its way through generations:
Lamoille
Wintegok
The Marrow.