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Grays Best

Keep Your Fork, Duke.There’s Pie Print E-mail
A poem.
by Larry Kenney
From the May/June 2010 Issue

A midriff-baring sweetie with a tattooed ankle
sashays down the deli aisle,
A midriff-baring sweetie with a tattooed ankle
sashays down the deli aisle, 
cell phone pressed to her ear,
murmuring “I’m here. Where are you?”
and “Do we need more brie?”
“Somewhere else,” I think,
and “Don’t we always?”
What I really want is another crack at a few good things.
At least those I still can take on with reasonable flair:
Ten-mile climbs to 10,000-foot-high lakes
may no longer be on the menu.
It’s actually been more smorgasbord than menu,
a long steam table filled with dishes
that presented themselves as I passed
then receded into distance and memory.
Down there on the line ahead
are tastes I’ve not yet sampled,
some difficult to swallow, no doubt,
though I expect I will.
What I want is time to pick up the tray and head back
toward the beginning of the line,
keep the silverware and the old plate,
taste another forkful here and there.
Let all the sauces mingle.
The McCloud and Pit in May, and again in November.
The high lakes on the Umpqua-Rogue Divide,
ice covering half the water and snowdrifts on the trails.
Yellow Creek and full-moon coyotes running field mice
down the length of Humbug Valley,
their mad yelps singing me to sleep.
The mangrove esteros of Magdalena Bay,
the blue waters off Loreto and La Ribera.   
The Kanektok and Alegnak, the waters off Southeast.
Fall River in July, hexagenias hatching at dusk.
The heavy scent of August on the Umpqua near Tyee,
The Klamath in October and the Rogue,
vine maples bright against the ridgelines
and evening shadows lining purple across the gravel bars.                                                
The Eel in December, mist low above Cock Robin Island
and steelhead riding an incoming tide.
The green of old redwoods on the Navarro
filtering a skinny sun that lights but doesn’t warm.
Riva Davia and Chimuehin, Yelcho, Aisen, and Manihuales,
the trill of banduria ibis beneath a summer Southern Cross.
And somewhere not too far back
a brace of spaniels quarter autumn fields.
Riffle will be there, long-dead girl-dog of my heart,
and soft-muzzled Pocket who wouldn’t quit
till years and our love put him down one past bleak spring.
Aging Feather will join them some day,
comedian napkin-snatcher
whose victory laps while bringing in a bird
are less a fault than a celebration we both share.  
There’ll be another after her, likely my last,
who’ll hunt the ditches and the stubble fields
and sit with me at dawn,
ears perked and tail alive at the creak of wings
ghosting past the Sutter Buttes.
O Lord of Buffets, of Rivers and of Fields,
let the rails on which we slide our plates
stay tangible behind us.
The textures and aromas from offerings past
remain fresh as those that lie ahead,
all the way to the cash register,
where the gray lady on the tall stool,
one pale eye on the clock,
rings it all up and keeps the change.

 *Attributed, perhaps apocryphally, to a waitress in rural Canada at a dinner for British royalty.

Larry Kenney retired from real jobs in the fly fishing and advertising worlds and lives in Northern California, where he writes a gear column for California Fly Fisher magazine and, when not checking out various buffet lines, crafts fine fiberglass trout rods.
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