Ten below, the sun on the bright horizon
lighting the ice with a blue, uncertain glow.
The old man, in snowmobile suit and earflaps,
says the reason I'm not catching fish is that
my bait is sluggish and cold. He places his thumb
in his cheek and extracts, like a watery chaw of tobacco,
a passel of waxworms, and, with his forefinger, taps
them apart and hands me what looks pretty much like a maggot.

Here, son, he says (although I'm almost fifty),
and slips the rest of the chaw back into his cheek
and returns to his plastic fish bucket and solitary jigging.
There's something about being out on the ice with a crafty
old man, and the things that come out of his mouth! A week
of Sundays couldn't be more spiritually uplifting.

§     §     §

It stayed up late, refused to go to bed,
and when it did it sang loud songs instead
of sleeping, disturbing its siblings --- couplets, quatrains
in their small rooms, began caterwauling ---
and soon the whole neighborhood was awake.
Sometimes it got in petty trouble with the law,
shoplifting any little thing it saw
that caught its fancy: happiness and heartache

slipped neatly in its pocket. It joined a gang
that forged currency, bombed conventions, and finally
tried to bump off all its competition.
Through a sequence of events, luckily
it was caught, handcuffed, and taken off to jail
where it would not keep quiet in its cell.

--- From Long for This World
Ronald Wallace
©2003, University of
Pennsylvania Press
Go to Other Poems by Ronald Wallace


Go Up     Go Home

Go to the most recent RALPH

Send us an e-mail