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          Sugar Pine
          By Thomas Kellar

          August '94.
          We coasted down
          the American River canyon
          in a Subaru hatchback
          with bad brakes
          and a radiator leak,
          crossing at the north fork
          then red-lining
          all the way up the other side
          cresting near Forest Hill,
          black top surrendering to red dirt.
          eight miles more,
          Lake Sugar Pine
          cool, clear, deep.

          Taking off our clothes
          we waded out
          across soft-bottom mud
          fighting to stay upright
          till the water reached our shoulders.
          Laughing, shivering, holding tight,
          we made love

          sex under a liquid blanket
          of Sierra blue,
          snow-runoff baptism,
          high-altitude fire.

          Late in the day
          just before leaving,
          you made me promise
          that if you died first
          I would bring your cremated remains
          back there,
          scattering ashes on the water.
          I said "You're crazy,
          I'm ten years older,
          smoke and drink like a chimney-fish,
          I'll be the first to go"
          but you made me promise anyway.

          Last night,
          in bed alone, sleeping,
          I saw Sugar Pine,
          the dirt road,
          picnic tables,
          fire tower,
          boat launch,
          all of it perfectly preserved,
          and somehow wrong.

          Dreaming on
          I became a hawk
          threading the tree line
          for what seemed like hours,
          eyes down,
          weighing the before and after,
          tracking change...

          And then I understood.
          It was so simple,
          how did I miss it?

          This time
          the surface was dark,
          the rich, fluorescent,
          pre-millennial blue
          the whole of the lake
          in gray-black ash.

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Document last modified on: 08/19/2003

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