You would swim the river
if you could trust the river,
but you don’t trust the river:
its green is a beautiful lie—
surface and shift, a hush
long as a sky. It’s soul
you are after, here, a memory
of being young, skinny, and sprung into
the cool drift of it, drenched.
You are parched. You were sick
for so long. The river is older
than you– all those innocent
currents. The man at the dock
says there are a few rivers left,
you could float in and eat from,
but not here, even if he saw
a guy last summer drunk,
reeling in the fish, frying them.
You cannot smell the factory
forty miles up but you know it’s there,
the smear of paper in the air.
Here, just this fatigued green
and a shallow lip against which
the cups and cans eddy. Some wind
chords the trees and they almost spill
their leaves. You know the names
of them: blue spruce, birch, ash,
the Kennebec. You came back
from the nearly dead for the light
that casts off of their bark and leaves,
for the language of branch and wind.
Lilac dusks people drift through the park
past a statue of a woman launching into flight
as crows hatch from the edges of her skin. . .
Whatever we have or haven’t been, the river sings.