Illustrations for “A Drop of Ink”

I’ve neglected to give a little love to my illustrator here. A Drop of Ink contains four wood engravings by Greg Lago, proprietor of Winged Bull Studio in Clayton, NY. Greg’s work has a fantastic narrative feel. The four engravings and their accompanying poems were first published in 1988 as a suite of broadsides entitled On the River, by Jim Benvenuto of Full Moon Press in Potsdam. The poems were hand set in lead type, with the engravings printed directly from the block, in a signed edition of 75. Fans of letterpress printing will know there is no substitute for the look and feel of direct printing, certainly not in digital reproduction. I still have a few copies for sale if you are interested, email me: dale@ncpr.org.

Here is a pale reflection of one of my favorite Lago engravings, which accompanies the poem “The Poachers” in A Drop of Ink, followed by the text of the poem.

The Poachers by Greg Lago

The Poachers. Wood engraving copyright Greg Lago. Used with permission.

The Poachers

Me and mine have lived along this shore
since ten years before the dinosaur. Got enough
relations in town in fill a church and a graveyard.

I guide the summer-folk a little. Someone’s got to,
the damn fools. They blow each other away, rip up their boats
in the shoal water, drunk. But I live for when they’re gone.

You can almost forget the Seaway and the ugly new hotels
in A. Bay. It’s quiet, wide and smooth in the evening. Mallard
and teal, goose and heron ghost in to light on the backwater.

You have to latch up the outboard and pole back into cattails,
watch the bats that skim the evening hatch, smoke, talk,
and sip a little beer, waiting for the sun to go low.

They come out of the northwest, dark against a mackerel sky,
straight into the guns, then silence, just the v-wake
from the retriever’s nose, like the reflection of southbound geese.

You make the run back upriver with no lights and no wake,
the motor muffled low. The dog sits in the bow seat.
You toss him bits of offal under the jacklight moon.

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