Pause at Dusk: Dragging the New Eden River for the Body of a Missing Canoeist by Ralph Culver

Pause at Dusk: Dragging the New Eden River for the Body of a Missing Canoeist

Downriver an eddy took the skiff
where it notched in the stone off the eastern bank.
I watch from upstream as a red cross rises
from it, then another, stretched taut
and stark on the green of the boatmen’s coats,
and recall two targets on a gray ridge,
long ago. I had just unstrung my bow
under the sun’s last bolts
and bull’s-eyes’ glare, and marked
how every flare of color in the dun world draws:
the bee to the mountain flower, the rifle barrel
to the gaudy square of cloth
pinned to the chest of the prisoner.
Through that remembered brilliance,
blazed, they offer themselves,
but a tension to the current pulls me back.
I lean to the line and see—
as though I were the one who had seen it—
the paddle a man has spotted from shore
near Bristol, four miles below:
white, a carmine band about the blade,
alone in a circle of water.

by Ralph Culver, first published in Vermont Literary Review.

Editor’s Note: This poem functions on the edge of tension, carefully drawn via color imagery and narrative.

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