A Poem from the Bend in the Trail

By

THE ALLIANCE

The farmer stood on the side of this hill
Lord knows how many years ago,
Before anyone ever heard of Normandy
Or Iwo Jima or the Bridge Too Far.

The man scratched his whiskery chin,
Brushed a fly from the brim of his hat,
And decided the cattle needed a pond.
He ambushed the creek and raised a dam,

Built a brick chimney that led to a heavy stone pipe
Under the embankment, an overflow so the bravest
Waters stood a chance at escape.
Then he waited for rain.

For years the deer and cattle drank here,
The frogs and songbirds and waterbugs came
And rested on the banks like tourists
In the sun on summer vacation.

But late one night, when no one was watching,
The seeds on the dam broke open.
Carefully upward they crept.
Seedlings stretched tall like waking children.

Before the farmer knew it, they were trees
With deep roots, fingers in the earth
That wrapped around the stone drainpipe
Like a soldier grips a gun.

One night, a storm descended.
The bending trees on the dam grew bold,
And squeezed till the pipe burst.
The creek rejoiced and ran free.

In the morning the cattle complained.
The frogs and birds and waterbugs
Packed their things and left.
Catfish cooked in the mud.

The elder waters gurgled their thanks
To the trees on the dam, then nodded
And ran home eventually to the sea,
Where they wanted to go all along.

The farmer, old now, woke to discover
His work undone. “Hmm,” was all he said.
The cows looked away to allow him his dignity.

When it rains now, the pond fills partway
Then drains away overnight,
Young waters pausing to honor their forbears,
Who bought their freedom.

But the birds and the frogs and the fish and I
Have been meeting in secret.
The creek doesn’t know it yet,
But the old trees are thirsty.

———————–

There’s no deep meaning in this one, so don’t bother looking. There’s an old dry pond at the Warren, and whenever I sit in the woods I dream of repairing the dam and stocking the pond with catfish.

Profile photo of Andrew Peterson

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


11 Comments

  1. Joe Thayer

    I wish you and the birds and the frogs and the fish luck. Wish I was there. I had forgotten the simple pleasure of damming up a creek. Cool mud between the toes feels good.

  2. Nathanael

    Andrew,
    Absolutely beautiful.
    I love it, especially this line:
    “The cows looked away to allow him his dignity.”

    Well done, friend, well done.
    Shalom

  3. E

    My grandfather helped build a number of muddy little ponds on our land in post dust bowl Oklahoma. And he stocked them with catfish and perch.

    Some of my favorite childhood memories are of fishing with him on and around the little ponds he help fashion. Peaceful times.

    It depends on how you define deep meaning I guess. My dad’s dad was an old farmer with a whiskery chin and a hat and the memories you triggered in me this morning are deep and full of meaning. Funny how those emotions just don’t have any sense of time, it’s like it was yesterday.

  4. Beat Attitude

    Nice evocative ideas! One of my fondest memories was of building an impromptu stone dam in a river with some friends. It’s the rolling up of the trouser-legs (yeah, I’m in the UK!) and losing all sensation in your feet in the cool water. Read your interview on BTW, thought I’d drop by and post a comment as another Christian singer-songwriter over her in bonny Scotland 🙂

  5. Peter B

    The amusement of this whimsical piece notwithstanding, I’m having a hard time not selling my house in Dallas and finding some oversized rural treed lot with a stream on the property.

    *sigh*

    Bloom where you’re planted, I guess.

  6. Mike

    Boys and Daddys and waiting on a catfish to bite. I learned alot between the slow steady tugs of ol’ muddy on stinky chicken liver. It will be worth the work and the boys will fish there with their boys until the water takes its toll on your dam.

  7. Dad

    Well, your poem and many of the comments posted caused me once again to dream of having a pond out in the back pasture…you know where Amos grazes. I’ve thought about it numerous times. It would be so nice to take the grandkids out to the bank of the pond and wet a hook or two!

  8. David H

    I live on property with two creeks and have seen my share of floods, some of which have washed away the road in (which is also the road out). Two of the worst floods occurred when upstream dams failed or malfunctioned. I love those creeks and the upstream ponds enough to accept their sometimes capricious hand in my life.

    Your poem reminded me a bit of Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall.”
    http://writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/frost-mending.html

    Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
    What I was walling in or walling out,
    And to whom I was like to give offence.
    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
    That wants it down.’

    The neighbor from Frost’s poem patiently insists: “Good fences make good neighbors.”

    Something there is that doesn’t love a dam, it seems. And I can’t help but wonder: What do good dams make?

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