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
Tonight the chatter of things is enormous and also
the silence that allows
such chatterthe 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
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
It is midnight and I sparkle like a trout.
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