I had the great pleasure of spending Tuesday on the Current River, and while drifting along, I remembered a poem I had published in Ozark Review many years ago. Poetry has an amazing capacity to stick in the mind; I hadn’t read this poem in years, maybe decades, but I could still remember its last few lines.
But I couldn’t remember who wrote it! Looked it up this morning and remembered that it was James S. Harris, who was from Kirkwood. Then I remembered further that he and I had enjoyed a long lunch one afternoon in the late ’70s, talking about the Ozarks, publishing, and poetry.
Oddly enough, I can’t find any information about what became of him. His poem was a lovely, finely structured piece that used a float trip on the Current River as a metaphor for the fragility of life, so I can’t imagine that it was the last thing he wrote. At the time of publication (1978), he was 32, so that would make him around 67 by now. But I can’t find any listings of books. If anybody has information about the creator of this lovely poem, please let me know! Here’s the poem, which was entitled “The Tree Will Fall”:
It always seemed to me —
the clear green pool, the leaning tree —
as changeless as an illustration in
my copy of Huckleberry Finn,
as the crack in the churchyard wall.
And the stream itself, more
each time like the perfect time before,
till at last the landmarks of a float trip seemed
the features of a faithful dream,
endless, vivid, still.
And yet I have wakened to find
the president’s men have all resigned;
arteries a pinpoint more congealed
and a mind, therefore, finally sealed
that once outshone them all.
There is oil, I hear, beneath —
Canoers, hang another wreath —
and I see the gap the fissure will become,
for as surely as the Current runs,
the sycamore will fall.