Where the River Bends to Meet Itself

Along the hills of Old Highway 70
hidden trees, bowed telephone wires,
everything that does not move
weeps with kudzu.
Tendrils of vine wait for the moment
the crown of sun is first visible above hillrise.

Asphalt curves and dips through little town after little town—
           signs announce Camden and Holladay (Unincorporated),
IGA and Magic Valley Drive-in Theater,
“closed for season” but not for long.
A yellow clapboard house leans but does not fall.
Dogwoods have yet to bloom; blackberry brambles are barren:
Signs! indicating that you are here, you are in the inbetween
where every river, advancing toward sea,
slows, muddies, runs backward through the cypress trees.

The Homes on Birdsong and Forrest

It was all so ordinary:
Our grove painted in patchwork tents,
Falling poplar samaras unfolding into birds,
The taste of small wild strawberries,
Balm of spring,
Epic of summer,
United with the dark waters of the river.
And there we baptized one another
(pearls, we did not know,
are peculiar to this river,
something perfect about the mud)
Over and over, drowned and emerged:
Diana, Luna, Hecate, Graces, Moirae, me.

All we had was immortality,
Inevitable treachery of fidelity,
Silent games among the dead,
Beatitude of glass-bottled Coke,
(why is it called a “church-key?”
who will talk about Granny
and all the rest at rest—
under the awning, near the long grey Cadillac
while eating chocolate fried pies
from paper fans of Jesus knocking
that soak up the grease tolerably well—
if we aren’t there?)
Perfect lyric of the fall,
Perfume of winter,
Stain of yellow dandelion,
The rituals with which I marked your faces,
And your willingness to live in my illusions
With which you marked me.

Not Bethesda

The heavy blue of the spring impregnated hole
did not reflect the pink auspicious sky
as she descended
the boulder strewn staircase to the water.
She lay her sandals on the pile of shoes
always found in those days
under the biggest cottonwood
Stretching its roots beneath Blue Hole.
And always the sick,
the heartbroken, the broken, the broke
filled with their bodies,
their candescent hum,
the dry part of the pit,
a chalk road that led nowhere.

The angel troubled the waters.

Something in a man who’s been real sick for real long
makes him afraid of healing. 
As they hesitated,

Eagerly and fearfully she made herself naked
except for the cassis-carved cameo
that still pulsed, there above her heart,
with memories of leviathans and siren-song.

The water kissed the yellow soles of her feet.
Lavender light sang
in the meat of her bones,
cackled like an herbwife
in the stillborn night of her epithelia.
She let her feet and legs disappear
beneath the water’s surface,
just like sea glass in the way
it should have been transparent
but wasn’t.

She slid into a drop-off,
estimated to be ninety feet, but no one knew
for sure how far down those machines had gone
before breaking the water table
or being swallowed up by the spring.

For a second, the cameo floated up
and lay peaceful on the surface, then
the whole shell followed
her down.

The crowd left the banks to return
tomorrow and all the days after
until a man, unaware of the properties of water
that had been touched as this water had been touched,
bought the pits from the gravel company
to build a house he would never build
and blocked the entrances and put up signs,
more signs.

Maybe she was healed.
Maybe she was pulled by a current
into tunnels dug into rock.
Maybe she was drawn past
unmoving, wide mouthed shadows
to the source of the stream, the stream which flows
down Mount Purgatory into Cocytus.

I remember nothing
but the grand ballabile
of so many circles of light
to the chant of water—

not even the pain.

 

- Leslie Bohn