Gretchen Steele Pratt
Solar Eclipse, 2017
It writes itself. There is a waterfall, a river, deep in the middle of the town.
My two girls in the river, their dresses wet and sagging, children in the old sense,
in the river with other children. They were all building a dam—
the ringleader calling out gotta get this done before the eclipse!
A diamond light dimming, though I wasn’t sure and asked the girls
if it was getting darker. Everything gravity, neutron star heavy, as if
all was alive to what was about to happen—the flock of geese, monuments,
the rocks the children dug from the riverbed. The falls. That word,
totality. My last day of summer. I sat on a rock in the river, feet in the water,
and a piece of cardboard—the top of a pack of cigarettes—American Spirit—
floated by me like a banner in the sky, then downcurrent, through a gap in
the children’s dam, down where people were sitting in lawn chairs in
the middle of the river, or sitting in the river, in their clothes, water up
to their necks. Nickel light. I did not plan to find this river, these falls.
For years now, every night before bed, I recite Yeats’s “Song of Wandering Aengus”
to the girls—And pluck till time and times are done—
and the girls each take one of the last two lines—
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
And it’s as if these lines, repeated, have brought us here,
one silver girl, one gold, below a waterfall, standing in the river, waiting
for the eclipse. I have no clear memory of what happened.
I have heard spiders during the darkness will tear down their webs.
The cavern howled, one involuntary throat,
and when I saw the black sun, my first thought was recognition,
that I had seen this on some movie poster once. I bent over,
cupped a handful of river water and poured it on the crown of my head,
From now on, from now on, from now on, until the sun came back like shade.