blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



On the Occasion of an Argument beside the River Where I Live

     (reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press)

Someone says we are trapped in language, and so the sun drops overhead
     through stilly pines where the river explains nothing and far away now
     several men and women on the Yangtze look up from their nets and
     point to the sky.
Bright Chinese fish, like all my words struggle in the nets of a stranger.

But because there is no surprise nor delight in the hour of owl-call and
     locusts vibrating in the walnut trees, my friend despairs. All she hears
     are owls and locusts and though two grandfathers molder in the silk of
     their caskets and she loved them, the night is just the night.
And two men flying overhead from opposite directions embrace and hover
     over the house, kicking their long spindly legs. Foolishness, I hear one
     say, foolishness.

Tonight the chatter of things is enormous and also the silence that allows
     such chatter—the empty space the tongue clicks through to make a
     word, the cataract between atoms a light thing might leap.
So, if there is nothing here, then the absence of the river makes the river

And the slow stripping of all my clothes makes the heat of this July night
     a bearable delight and a secret joy, walking down the driveway, to the
     bank of the river, over the water-worked stones, and into the current.
Laura, I don't know what you are doing but I am swimming naked in the
     Shenandoah and the sun is in China, still rising over the Yangtze.

And there is nothing for you here if two men can't fly skimming the
     surface of the water eating horseflies and laughing; and it is the truth,
     not my truth or some private certainty I tell you.
It is midnight and I sparkle like a trout.  

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