Learning the speech of the river
means listening at night
so sunlight flaking on ripples
doesn’t distract from the sifting
of pebbles and silt, or the sigh
of weeds dancing in shallows.
I learned my first words fishing
in the Scantic, brown chords lacing
the fluster of panfish and crawdads.
Later sailing the Connecticut
I heard the whole gravel bottom roar.
An exclamatory island loomed.
Translating insidious tones
into language takes great effort.
Most of my lazy life passed before
I settled on this grassy bank
and put down a taproot to anchor
my carcass in case of flood.
But this is a season of drought,
and the river mumbling to itself
has foregone all its pageantry
and offers a simplified profile.
It hasn’t muted, though, its voice
as distinct as a brass carillon.
I learn the river-words for angst
and fever and hungry for fish.
I also hear a gasp, a whirlpool
that could almost be my name.
No festivals this year, the crimes
against humanity too grave,
too embellished in the sky.
Nothing in nature knows me,
so the river couldn’t possibly
enunciate my seven syllables
unless they mean the same thing
as embrace the flow and drown.
William Doreski has published three critical studies and several collections of poetry. His work has appeared in many print and online journals. He has taught at Emerson College, Goddard College, Boston University, and Keene State College. His most recent book is Stirring the Soup. williamdoreski.blogspot.com