You claim the clear water in wilderness on the far coast
is better because streams are filtered by mosses and lichens
of forests never logged, and the lakes are filled by snowpack,
white that has only ever touched white, melting to make water.
A fallen leaf can be seen over 100 feet below the surface of a lake—
such precision. An argument for purity. But is that what you want
to argue for, stranger? You’re leaning closer. Waters here are murky.
It’s an ancient, worn landscape with slow moving rivers that let
hundreds of kinds of life evolve. Your crystalline creeks house only one
species of fish and are considered complete. More fish than you
could ever count and whole cars lie beneath these bodies of mine.
I swam over a wreck for years without seeing it until I grew old enough,
got long legs, and something soft and slick wrapped around my toe,
a seat belt unloosed, rotten backseat leather unfurling in current,
drawing me down toward the metal below. Imagine where such
waters could let you drift. Though not many would argue rusted cars
were virtues. How about cows that swim the river? Call them cow-brutes,
call them milking-critters, call them beasties, in the vernacular
of this place where things are named twice or oddly to honor complexity.
To make them familiar, because this is worked land, intimate. Or to
make them sound bigger and fiercer, to flatter what we tame.
How do you like to be talked to? The cattle slipping on muddy banks—
yes, they cloud the water, but have you watched the way they drop
their meaty bodies in on hot days, graceless but trusting? That abandon.
You’d have to enter my house like that. You’d have to be unafraid
of stumbling on sagging floors, into low doorframes, features
of old structures, the past, people I know. They’ve always known me.
And I am regaining my footing in this conversation; there are
of salamanders in the Southern Appalachians than in any other
temperate region. Come home with me. Come in and tell me I can have
everything. That all of this I love survives, the farms that strove only for
subsistence, content with the providence of junk piles, pearl
darters, the rarer fauna, the multiplicity of trees, you, the charm of you