The river is largely implicit here, but part
                        of what
              becomes it runs from east to west beside

our acre of buckthorn and elm.
                        (And part
              of that, which rather weighs on Steven's mind,

appears to have found its way to the basement. Water
                        will outwit
              a wall.) It spawns real toads, our little

creek, and widens to a wetland just
              the road, where shelter the newborn

fawns in May. So west among the trafficked fields,
                        then south, then
              east, to join the ample Huron on its

curve beneath a one-lane bridge. This bridge
                        lacks every
              grace but one, and that a sort of throwback

space for courteous digression:
                        your turn,
              mine, no matter how late we are, even

the county engineers were forced to take their road
                        off plumb. It's heartening
              to think a river makes some difference.


Apart from all the difference in the world,
                        that is.
              We found my uncle Gordon on the marsh

one day, surveying his new ditch and raining
              curses on the DNR. That's Damn Near

Russia, since you ask. Apparently
                        my uncle
              and the state had had a mild dispute, his

drainage scheme offending some considered
              view. His view was that the state could come

and plant the corn itself if it so loved
                        spring mud. The river
              takes its own back, we can barely

reckon fast and slow. When Gordon was a boy
                        they used to load
              the frozen river on a sledge here and

in August eat the heavenly reward -- sweet
                        cream --
              of winter's work. A piece of moonlight saved

against the day, he thought. And this is where
                        the Muir boy
              drowned. And this is where I didn't.


Look: the river lifts to its lover the sun
                        in eddying
              layers of mist as though

we hadn't irreparably fouled the planet
                        after all.
              My neighbor's favorite spot for bass is just

below the sign that makes his fishing
                        rod illegal,
              you might almost say the sign is half

the point. The vapors draft their languorous ex-
                        curses on
              a liquid page. Better than the moment is

the one it has in mind.

Linda Gregerson is the author of the forthcoming Negative Capability: Essays on Contemporary American Poetry.

All material copyright © 2000 . All rights reserved.

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