Rivers Poem

I. Cuyahoga

this is where the river went wild
and the fennel seeds came in
spilling oils on the shore;
this is where those damned grey suits

stood and smoked their Cubans
and lit the whole damn thing up:
the flames are green and the smoke
moves up into the already grey sky.

the rain stings. the way the faces melt
when the river blazes and our fathers
from the north look on, wide-eyed
and bent-kneed, waiting to see

what will happen after the flames subside
and the man standing over the bridge leaps
off, thinking that his leap plunged him
into the greasy Hellfires.

II. Raisin

my father floated logs down you
to construct a railroad that now runs
through my back yard, where dinner cars
and cars carrying gasoline chug through,

making my dogs crazy with sound.
when the automobiles come back
there's only one way to go: that rusted steel
contraption under which the desolate currents

flow. the flora reeks of lagers
which i'm sure my father enjoyed
after his labors were complete, after
my mother's labors, her shrieks shaking the water

and the cattails and high grasses on your shores:
i was born on it, baptized in it;
its waters still crawl over me
and my still-laboring father.

III. Kalamazoo

the waters are still;
the waters are swirling with colors
like a twister over the farmlands
which your waters now irrigate with poisonous

vittles. there's no place to walk
without seeing blackness; there is no where
to swim, no rocks to beat your tattered clothes against.
she looked deeply at me and her mouth

curled up like the river bends, her eyes
fell smoothly from her face like the oilslick
over the surface. her words are crude
and coat doves with thick soup

and resistance. the drums are easier
to pick up than her pleasures,
they're easier to haul away to make
the people reclaim their moment.

IV. Huron

there are too many poems from my own fingers
praising your unclean rushing waters
drowning the bougainvillea buds
with acid rain: the treetops rustle

as your thick white foam pushes up
against their roots. there's a centaur somewhere
in the lushness surrounding you.
the ravens overhead cannot see their reflections

in the brown that makes you up:
i tread along you but i cannot drink
because Ypsilanti takes her gears
and dips them in your waters:

they run down to Ann
where the sun is just as hot
but the boys sweat longer because they have
no place to bathe.

V. The Stream Across from the Bay

concrete shores
and an old man on the ledge
enjoying his dinner
while two walk along

in wanderlust. there's a step down
and a hand over my slacks
until we see a runner coming.
a kiss before we think of somewhere

we could go, something we
could do. we can't hear the bay
over the rushing river; i can't hear
anyone say stop over the rushing

in my mind. we can return that night
and feed the river and ourselves wine,
curl up, fall asleep naked
to the sounds of the flowing waters.

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