we ditch the canoe on a sandbar
for a smoke and a beer
turn our faces to the sun
and slide with the current along mossy rocks
into an emerald pocket of ice water

around a bend
we count one two three
four five six seven eight
huge heron nests
magicked in the treetops

thin, high clouds filter the sun
Nothing is familiar
the river has shifted the sandbar
into an island
forcing us to choose a side

vultures like men in black trenchcoats
loom in branches
over exposed roots like claws
snaring a bloated cow
we smell before we see

I follow the river from the road
a white plastic bag waves at me
like a flag from the tangle of flood brush
I would be a fool to step into this river alone