Boy in Sunlight : Malcolm Cowley

The boy having fished alone

down Empfield Run from where it started on stony ground,

in oak and chestnut timber,

then crossed the Nicktown Road into a stand

of bare-trunked beeches ghostly white in the noon twilight-

having reached a place of sunlight

that used to be hemlock woods on the slope of a broad valley,

the woods cut twenty years ago for tanbark

and then burned over, so the great charred trunks

lay crisscross, wreathed in briars, grey in the sunlight,

black in the shadow of saplings grown

scarcely to fishing-pole size: black birch and yellow birch,

black cherry and fire cherry-

having caught four little trout that float, white bellies up,

in a lard bucket half-full of lukewarm water-

having unwrapped a sweat-damp cloth from a slap of pone

to eat with dewberries picked from the heavy vine-

now sprawls above the brook on a high stone,

his bare scratched knees in the sun, his fishing pole beside him,

not sleeping but dozing awake like a snake on the stone.

Waterskaters dance on the pool beneath the stone.

A bullfrog goes silently back to his post among the weeds.

A dragonfly hovers and darts above the water.

The boy does not glance down at them

or up at the hawk now standing still in the pale-blue mountain sky,

and yet he feels them, insect, hawk, and sky,

much as he feels warm sandstone under his back,

or smells the punk-dry hemlock wood,

or hears the secret voice of water trickling under stone.

The land absorbs him into itself,

as he absorbs the land, the ravaged woods, the pale sky,

not to be seen, but as a way of seeing;

not to be judged, but as a way of judgment;

not even to remember, but stamped in the bone.

"Mine," screams the hawk, "Mine," hums the dragonfly,

and "Mine," the boy whispers to the empty land

that folds him in, half-animal, half-grown,

still as the sunlight, still as the hawk in the sky,

still and relaxed and watchful as a trout under the stone.