Thorpe Moeckel


Though my grandfather never came rafting,
Pop Pop made a watercolor
from a photo of my father, brother, and me
in a four-man at Woodall Shoals,
and he always asked about the work
and all the other hopelessly heroic jobs
he probably didn’t approve of
as if he’d start them tomorrow
with nothing except what he’d heard; he
knew, for instance, how at the big drops
we set rope in case rafts dumped,
to stop swimmers before the next; knew
we parked in safe eddies, had guests
wait(they dreaded & loved the suspense),
then took a coil and a bag,
and hustled to set up; knew it was
best to rockhop barefoot, or wear
sandals of hemprope, believing each step
was the one, and pushing off
the chipped tooth of schist, a leap
over crevice and already looking
for the next. Pace is place,
Pop Pop said, a fact he knew
from painting, how everything moves —
trees, even stone — after looking
at water so long. He liked that some guides
practiced their throws and others
felt it jinxed them, and nothing worse
than a missed throw except laying
the rope across a swimmer’s chest
then letting go, or getting dragged in
as I was yesterday in the nursing home
when wanting like in some gospel
a rope from heaven to save us
not from death so much as loneliness,
I held the thin, liver-splotched braid
of his hand, and knew no rope
could help but a river was
a rope with no end only a loop
of knots in sky earth flesh sun,
and tried not to cry and even harder
as from within the steely cavern
of Alzheimers, Pop Pop said,
it’s nice to meet you.

Thorpe Moeckel
Ropethrows is from Odd Botany, (Silverfish Review Press 2002).