Near the Subway Station and the Highway Exit Ramp by Hilary Sallick

Near the Subway Station and the Highway Exit Ramp

Walking home, I pause
to survey the pond.
There’s a man down there
on the unsteady piled-up
rocks of the bank, a clutter
of shards deposited
to shore up this road.
He’s busy with something intricate
in his hands.
Earlier, I counted turtles, five of them,
sun-stunned, on an ancient
curl of root, beside the orange
No Trucks sign half-floating
with the scum and other
bits of trash,
and I photographed the greening willows,
how they trailed over the pond
almost touching it.
What is that man doing?
He holds a stick, broken
from one of the leafless bushes
or small trees straggling up
this side of the pond, and he’s working with it,
maybe tying a line
to one end. It takes time.
Two children slow to look at him.
Keep going, their mother says.
A couple in running gear
watches a while, then continues on.
I am full of curiosity
as I lean over the rail.
The man is so absorbed
he doesn’t seem to notice us,
as if he’s in another world
in this environment.
He picks up a rock, heaves it
toward the water, then
another rock, and another.
I see he’s making a jumbled
pile, an outcropping, and he stands on it.
Now he opens the plastic bag he’s brought.
Inside, something is folded
in newspaper. What is it?
I watch the steady angle
of his gaze, the motion
of his arm. Something
is being drawn through
something else. He finishes,
straightens, edges a half-step
closer to the water.
Then his arm with the stick
draws back, and he launches the line.
It can’t go far,
just a few short feet.
The bait sinks down, dangles
long seconds in the liquid sway.
He draws it out, flings it again,
gesture of grace.
Where and when did he learn that?
A breeze comes running
over the water,
precise ripple of widening light.
He’s utterly focused,
so relaxed. His line falls, sinks,
hangs. We’re both watching.
What is about to happen?
He pulls it up, casts again,
and again.

by Hilary Sallick

Editor’s Note: This narrative poem draws the reader in with a question, but at the end, the answer isn’t as important as the journey.

One thought on “Near the Subway Station and the Highway Exit Ramp by Hilary Sallick

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