Fall 2017 (Volume 21, Issue I)




I’m not fussy. Any body

of rushing water. 300 miles away,

my parents meet with a brief-cased

man to settle their affairs on the way

out the door, so we don’t kill each other

trying to do it ourselves—us, the kids,

and it, divide the meager spoils

with the clawed hands of grudge.

We ourselves get ready to retire,

take the package, shred the paper,

wave goodbye when appropriate

or give the finger, or both. The river

never waves good-bye. The Monongahela

after spring rain—high water ripples

and brown churn beneath the surface.

I hear that long-gone fish are returning

to cleaner waters. Long-gone faith

in returning. Going against the current

has never been our style. My parents,

nervous to meet the man, relieved when it’s over.

They’re blowing in the wind, but holding on

to the clothesline. Lists shorten

in my father’s neat script. My blind mother

scrawls in overlapping hieroglyphics

we try to decipher when the mailman

guesses right and drops her letters into

our hearts. We’ve got to name our rivers,

but I like to think of them as one constant

unnamed thing in the face of all we name,

in the face of calculated distance. The man

with the briefcase is headed my way.

I know everybody has a lot to say

about rivers, and dying.

Today, I’m just watching.

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