Fall 2017 (Volume 21, Issue I)
I LIKE WATCHING RIVERS
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.