Photographing Bushkill Creek

I’m sitting on the bank where you once stood

to photograph the creek the way you would

have on a day like this. You’d go knee-deep

to get a better shot; I’ll try to keep

my focus low, to catch the muddled sun

on wet brown rocks, the spines of trees, the one

white swan among the dozen beggar geese

you’d want to feed. I have no bread, their pleas

are desperate. I’m just as destitute. I take

a photograph of how this feels: the ache

of a missing father. But there is fire ahead;

I catch its flare up on the hill, smell the dead

leaves burning. I see a man as white as birch

that feeds the flames. He’s turned away to search

for me: the twig snap, the scent, the change I’ve made

to what was here before. I hide, try to fade

into the atmosphere. I want to be

as thin as air: his ghost, his memory. 

Jean Free lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her husband and daughter. She holds an MA in Poetry from Johns Hopkins University, where she also works in undergraduate student affairs. Her poetry has appeared in publications including Sewanee Theological Review, The Raintown Review, The Rotary Dial, String Poet, The Three Quarter Review, and Think Journal.