Thorpe Moeckel

Trees & Stars

Silly raft, craft without the c –
add water & testosterone,
and you have the day I led
four strange folks from Orlando
down the Chattooga River. What
do you mean the river doesn’t
do a circle
, the first guy asked,
when I told him not to leave
his wedding band under a rock
at the put-in. He was serious
and so was his buddy who said
who put the rocks here, why
don’t we see more wildlife,
this isn’t what the brochure
made it out to be.
As if the burger
we’re served is as perfect
as the one pictured in the menu.
Why do the trees get taller farther
from the river?
was a question
so obvious & Zen-pretzelled
it stumped me. One guy, all day,
paddled backward when I said
forward, & vice versa, probably
didn’t like my cool, neo-hippie
attitude. It was weird but this
was March, a weird month,
and when I showed them a trillium
up the drainage at Long Creek,
guess what? – they asked who
planted it. Probably a bird, I said,
or the wind. Not long after this
on a long trip I was leading
a kid freaked out. It was late
and we were under the stars, &
they were shooting. In his calf,
he’d been shot, in a drive-by
before a string of lock-ups,
the latest, for possessing a quarter
ounce of weed, which was why
he was with me for thirty days
of backpacking – not boot camp,
just hauling a big bag & trying
to be good. About the stars, what
could I say? It was cold
and we needed sleep, so I told
the story about the folks
from Orlando on the river,
and how ridges like the one
we were camped on top of
make the trees look taller
than they really are.

Thorpe Moeckel
Trees & Stars is reprinted from Making a Map of the River (Iris Press 2008).