The light of our fire straining
up these walls brings me back.
Far away from my brothers,
I followed a fish upstream,
moving quickly, without a thought.
The light reflected off the ripples
the fish made and caught my eyes.
So easy to dazzle, even now.
Further up, he nestled under a branch
and trapped himself in a small thicket.
Water shown white over his black body.
He wiggled, struggled. His tail fin
flapped out of the water. It sent
circles of little waves on the surface
of the still pool the thicket had made.
Shadows of those circles radiated
on the shallow floor, one after another,
widening out. They blurred in time,
mimicking the bumps and bubbles
on the surface. Perfect symmetry
from his tangled heart beating.
I jostled a branch to make a way out.
Further up, the sun shown off the noise
he made on the surface as shadows,
just so, rippled unseen underneath.
It was moments like this
that convinced my father
to send me away
to be tested by the old men.
I did not mind so much,
but they did not always
tell the truth.
And even though it helped
sometimes that they didn’t,
I learned not to accept
those little helps.
You must keep your bearings.
Even if you lie to others
for their own seeming peace,
they don’t get much.
I’ve seen it unwind both ways.
My Cro-Magnon friend reflects on his epistemology, of sorts, wishing he could just retreat into poetry. And he complains about how hard it is to be a physician when we know so few hard facts about healing and when the crazy old men tell lies to keep the paying customers coming back.