By the Time I Came Upon Him by Clark Holtzman

By the Time I Came Upon Him

By the time I came upon him, it was late in the day,
he was pounding water near the rock-walled well,
standing over the bucket of water so black in that December light,
so like a mirror, one hand gripping its rim, the other a fist,
a hard pink fist raised over the back bent to the thing
he was so earnestly about. The fist came down and down
onto the face of the water which seemed to accept it,
the pummeling, as water accepts all things—
the diving sea-hawk, the sea wreck, the suicide,
the fly-cast, the glacial calve, the tea bag, the muzzle in thirst,
the test finger, the leaf released, Narcissus’ gaze . . .

The woods I had come from stood leafless.
The going had been slow, the way tangled, the light weak.
The clearing held in diorama the rock-walled well,
the man at his business and the bucket of water.
The slash of sky it framed was low and gray and swollen.
I did not stop to ask directions.

by Clark Holtzman

Editor’s Note: The narrative in this poem is strange and confusing. It raises the question, “why is he doing this thing?” But neither the reader nor the narrator has the courage to ask.

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