Between Him and the World
—on the early death of Alex Leavens
Footsteps cross wet stones
in the streambed. Snowmelt
spills through moss and ferns.
I want his photograph and think—
I’ll just ask if I can take his portrait.
Too late I realize the impossibility.
We thought we saw him one night
at the base of the mountain,
following the trace of an elk.
He was reflected in a shiver of moonlight
shifting through clapping leaves.
We spotted him many times, but each time
wind revealed fog in the valley, a flock of birds
scattered by a red-tailed hawk,
the slinking shadow of a fox at daybreak.
We expect him to return,
ruby-crowned kinglets and I,
to read us a new poem.
He will always be the young woodsman
ruddy beside a bonfire, bright sparks rising
in a crackling spiral against black-green forest.
I have new gloves and a new hoe—
I plant eulogies. He was a sure-footed fisher,
a stalking panther, a salmon in the river.
He was a harrier with an adder in his talons
fighting a headwind. He was a canoe, a paddle,
the ripple in the wake.
My husband has come home from our oldest son’s house.
I don’t look at him until we are sitting down to lunch.
When I look it is as if he is ten years younger!
His eyebrows are trim. Where are the cobwebs
sprouting from his ears?
He is kempt! His grizzled hair looks almost blond,
smooth, sun kissed, like a surfer dude in a movie
from the seventies. I think Jeff Bridges,
Paul Newman—a straight Montgomery Clift.
His eyes are as blue as Frank Sinatra’s.
I gaze at his forearms and am reminded of Tom Volk
in fifth grade when the teacher had him clutch
the wires from a hand cranked generator
how his muscles bulged and twitched.
This is what sex must be like, I remember thinking.
Dale Champlin, an Oregon poet with an MFA in fine art, has poems in The Opiate, Timberline Review, Pif, and elsewhere. She is the editor of /pãn| dé | mïk/ 2020: An Anthology of Pandemic Poems from the Oregon Poetry Association. Her first collection The Barbie Diaries was published in 2019 with Just a Lark Books. Callie Comes of Age was published by Cirque Press in 2021. Three collections, Leda, Isadora, and Andromina, A Stranger in America are forthcoming. Her sentient android, Andromina, protagonist of ninety-four poems, declares, “I wax magnetic as chunky biker jewelry, yet am susceptible to innuendo.”