River – by Chris Ellery

“I’ve known rivers” – Langston Hughes, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”

You’ve ridden her back to your marriage,
and once below the widow’s house,
just where you saw the copperhead,
you took off your clothes
to caress the amorous currents.

Now the water is cool on this summer day,
blackberries in your pail,
your work-soaked overalls drying
on the stones.
Dive
out in the channel
to the deepest sediments.

When you open your eyes to the river,
you see at the bottom
more than sand and river rock,
leaf rot and sunken driftwood,
bed and basin.

Holding your breath inside this seam,
you feel the flow
of all that falls on earth.
The stream that will carry your ashes
is carving you deeper and deeper.

Chris Ellery is author of five poetry collections, most recently Canticles of the Body and Elder Tree. A member of the Texas Institute of Letters, he has received the X.J. Kennedy Award for Creative Nonfiction, the Dora and Alexander Raynes Prize for Poetry, the Betsy Colquitt Award, and the Texas Poetry Award.