It is a bad, bad business to walk to the river expecting something casually spiritual to cast aside your skin. Rocks tongue the bloody light where I’ve been going, a cheap motel on the other side where the complimentary bibles have expiration dates and the Danishes reflect my face in their glacial frosting. We become magnificent as they crumple, bending in the fluorescence our ancestors left us to better see our cruel bodies. Outside, the evening quickens into a crooked line of poorly-built fires, as if the whole county were neck-deep in the so-called mystery of what anglers do after taking off their waders. The mosquito-bit air darkens into night, scuttling the distance into many canoes between us. Like a green villager, I have confused the river for my friend. I threw starfish into the wrong water, mistaking what was potable for a stronger tide. I might as well pardon my own history for bringing me here. I’m sorry, darling, but where we’ve been is just no match for standing on this bank flexing our muscles until the sun jumps up like a fish and the angry wind whips against the leaves, the whole tableau uncertainly taking note of where the river goes and what it means as, beside it, a dozen drunk survivalists unzip their camouflage to show us where they are and what they have been hiding.
14 The Paris-American
Christopher DeWeese is the author of The Black Forest (Octopus Books, 2012). His poems have appeared in Boston Review, jubilat, and Tin House. He teaches at Smith College.