Will Portage

Untamed or unnamed, the tilt is in
her head—and a lock shuts
down forever to stop

the spread of invasive
species up
river. Forever is

a long time to fight the ambitions
of fish. She’ll find the way
to unburden her own.

Brackish

She threw
nostalgia in—
along with your initials.

“Turn all
post-war, pre-washed, personal works
over for good, or
for as long as it takes
to forget
again.”

Another message
written in poor
handwriting, stuffed
in a glass
bottle to be tossed
into another body
of water—salt or fresh,
or in between.

Downed

The longest
day of the year collapses

into darkness
hours too early. Another bout

of extreme
weather rumbles

through—tears trees
from their roots

like a cat
shedding for summer. Power

lost, flash
flooding drowns

the whimsy
of solstice

ceremonies. Dances
over the river

cannot stop it
from spilling over too far.

Putting Together with Light

When I can’t recognize
the taste of my own
name on the tip

of this inherited tongue.
When water terrifies
but is the only way.

When light’s brilliance
before death
takes me by the hand.

When I’ve got no place
else to go,

the rhythm of you
remains—you
big ole’ muddy river.

27 August 2012

For My Father

The Mississippi flows
a calm at my feet
to send the message
in ripple effect:

I must trust
that your spirit will continue
to guide and nudge me
(despite inevitable snags) the way

you always did
when you were alive.

How Close Are You to the Shore?

Can you walk barefoot through dune
grass at high

tide and predict how many purple
mussel shells

will be uncovered
next? I wonder if this image of you

I’ve constructed
from ash bark and river glass

could come close
to dampening your bare skin.