The Toutle taught me to balance. While my father fished, light fly flicking the surface, I’d maneuver from stone to dry stone, trying to avoid slipping into the drink. It was impossible, the sound of the rapids throwing me off, the sheer depth of pools. More than once I’d land a knee bath, thinking I’d only get soaked to the ankles.  

I don’t know how trout keep track of where they’re going, so many rocks in the way. I could see them sometimes between errant leaps, nosing along, skirting boulders, speckles fitting right in with pebbles, brick, green, gray, tan, pink. I picked up as many stones as pockets would carry, sagging downstream, bulbous. They helped hold the balance, a little bit of river risking each step. Out there between rocks like an eagle, arms spread, I felt I could sail to safety, every spinning thing in place, every patch of pale sky home on the river, those stones singing.

Carol Barrett teaches poetry and healing courses for Union Institute & University and for Saybrook University. Her most recent book, Pansies, was a 2020 Oregon Book Awards finalist. A former NEA fellow in Poetry, she has published previously in *82 Review, JAMA, The Women’s Review of Books, Poetry International and elsewhere.

See more of her work in 9.2 and 8.2 and 6.2

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