I drive the old river road past the gravel company
and the barbecue joint, the docks
with their long encrusted tongues, blow through
sour river funk, staccato glimpses of scalloped water,
down to the riverside park in the shadow of the overlook
where Louisville’s inherited families huddle behind flood walls.
I’ve swum in this river, waded through
leathered silt, sunk my feet in storied mud.
Seen it shine like a cache of silver coins.
Collected driftwood to build fires to knock bugs down.
When the wind picks up, I hear its song.
I succumbed to the river’s ancient urge westward,
and drifted that way for a time.
Came ashore in a land of prickly pear and cholla.
Shopping cart arroyos and devils that scour the land
and whip the heart. I became sun-dumb and selfish
for want of water.
Now, I am back, ankle deep in this squalid impurity.
Long, flat barges churn its face. A headless doll
lolls along the bank. The thin body
of a cancer-pocked gar spoils in the sun.
A log turns and rolls back to sleep.
Beautiful and terrible, both at once.
And I know I am home.