I know the wrinkling wood on my left to the last blackberry brambling.
I can count the days by her cycling colors.
I can see her ribs arching with my eyes fastened shut,
and I swear – some still, chilly morns – I hear her breathing.
I reckon that where the water was, her rock has worn
all fallaway slanting, all provocative tilting, inviting all wending
where her creekbed once went: before those seedlings
trespassed her ravines with their barbing roots, like a beard untended,
anchored her banks in defiance of silt; before she’d grown trees,
formidably-girthed and -enarmored; before their thrown leaves
peppered my forest in brilliant gilt, set blazes braver than the autumn rain.
Where does the river ever end-
to north or south, the banks? The mouth
to east? The source to west? Of course,
for miles around it soaks the ground
and effervesces on the wind.
I take a jug of sweet iced tea
outside, to where the summer air
will gently pass against the glass,
begin to shiver, leave the river
dripping, glinting, plain to see.
When warmth goes in, I take the hint
and tea- no ice. The winter’s nice
seen out from in, but even then
is overlain the windowpane
the river’s lacy fingerprint.
The river falls from the sky in pieces,
collects in the pines,
drops tidily onto my head. What else
soaks my feet as I cross your roof,
stepping carefully from beam to beam?
Undeniably, Kaaleb, it is the river
that carries your body home.
There is nothing new under the waters,
nothing older than erosion but death.
My mother, I’ve learned, wants
to go up in smoke, fired in the kiln,
collected in an urn, scattered in the garden,
where the weather will take her bodily up
to heaven or, more likely, breathed in
by smokers and non-, emphysematic:
small pockets of empty, dead flesh,
torn to ashes, finagled into pink, healthy lungs.
I cannot fault her. And it comforts me
to picture the last of her body
ripped from the leaves by rain, carried at last
downhill to the bosom of the river.
Some winter nights pull me all-the-way-downstream.
Near the bottom, well-deep, the brook-babble dries up,
save a slumbrous undercurrent, mumbling beneath,
an epoch’s slow snowmelt whose snores never cease.
The echoes locate her in a root-cellar sanctum:
the woodland, her branches stripped bare, lies asleep.
She is lovely, if bony, if yearning for warmth.
She is dreaming, like me, of an unquiet spring.