The East River Is the Earthly River

After a line from Eavan Boland’s “Traveler”

Not a river at all, this
tidal strait is my state of flux—
takes me home

to Connecticut or New Jersey
depending on which way the water flows

when I jump in. I would never
really take that plunge
no matter how clean the EPA claims it is.

Definitely not
after a thunderstorm.

A tri-state dialogue
navigates through my heart,
from my father’s lateral root system,

tracked and traced
and recast as my own.

He may have left the planet
to commingle with the stars
in the night sky. I remain

his Ursa Minor.
When his mother died,

he picked me up in Astoria
on his way from Morristown to Rockville
to lay her to rest

where we would lay his constellation
of ashes 24 years later.

I’ve crossed
in both directions:
on foot and by train, taxi,

aerial tramway, ferry, bus, even plane,
over bridges, through tunnels.

My father taught me how to swim
in a rocky sound off an island
217 nautical miles northeast

of the East River.

I will not freestyle
or breaststroke or backstroke
or butterfly across.

Some brackish stigmas
die hard beneath the ever so slightly
pulsing and unhinged Polaris.

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