Things you can’t capture

Here is a sort of poem I have written.

It is a pleasant thing to drive northward on U.S. Route 15,
leaving the Susquehanna’s West Branch,
and following the banks of Lycoming Creek,
crossing the steep-sided hills
of the unglaciated Allegheny plateau—
some 80 miles or so, as the crow flies,
from the spot to the east where men say
that angels laid hands on men’s heads.

On a late summer evening when rain has ended
and clouds are just breaking up,
the sky over that country moves:
It flows over the hills and it breaths
with the road’s rising and falling,
as the road flows over the hills,
mediated by colossal concrete arches
bridging the deepest valleys.

And the sky comes right down to those hills’ heads.
It comes in dark greys and dark yellow-browns
the colors of stalking cats,
lighter greys like squirrels backs,
whites like gulls’ heads,
brushed here and there with pale yellows,
and bright gold at the edges and fault-lines,
over a broad, mostly hidden expanse
of forget-me-not blue.

And when that lowering sun—not yet setting,
but at what the cinematographers call the golden hour—
streams up from behind the hills
and shines straight through the green-black dark
that fills the deepest valleys to the west,
it makes you want to stop the car
and get out and take pictures,
and wish you had the skill to paint, or write,
to capture that sky, that sun, those hills.

But it wouldn’t matter if you did,
because some things are wild
and they run where they will.
And you can’t capture them—

Things like the twist of the greenery
in your wife’s hair—bright like a new penny in the sun—
on your wedding day.
Or your just-born daughter’s eyes
blinking slow with confused wonder
as a new alien in an old world.
The grip of your two boys’ hands
on your left and right index fingers
while you walk across parking lots.
And the way death sat on your grandpa’s face
in the cedar box they put him in and buried.

These things are untame.
They light where they will and they fly where they will.
If you capture them, they die.
And after that, they’re only good for taxidermy—
for preservation, sorting, cataloging,
storing on shelves, displaying under glass.
Dead things that call back a memory,
but cannot call back life,
having form of wildness,
but lacking its grace.



  1. Lovely, JKC. Thanks.

  2. “These things are untame.”

    Yes. Thanks for this. The spirit is wild.

  3. Thanks, guys. Definitely where I was coming from, Steve.