Brown eyes that leak the wings of crows,
There was a boy in your father's stride
That he once thought was you, that he said
You will never become. Soft hands, watch him run.
So open the front door with those hands
Blackened by summers rubbing his coal
Over your body, hands that knows a boy feels
Like a nectarine, skin a sheer line between hush
And never was. Up from the treeline, a wind
Rushes featherthick, a fist. Your shoulderblades
Harden—step out and run. When you forget
You have feet, you will be free.
West Virginia, June 2006
Two thousand miles from home and I am learning to love
This river running through town, rising for the last eight weeks
Thick with snowmelt from birth in the Rockies at 11,000 feet,
Learning to love the Northern Flickers and how they race
Back and forth over the river while I sit on the bank at lunch,
Flash of red underwing like the coal fires of home in West Virginia,
A holler of green rivers and blue hills pebbled with trees
Up to the summit, not like the sharp divide at treeline, here.
This year, this Colorado river higher than usual, and every day
More trail flooded, and I remember floodwatch in the holler
Back home, the plan on a yellow sign by our one stoplight,
Climb To Safety. And we did. But just this past week,
As the river here began receding, I get a text from Father—
I know you got no TV but WV is flooding real bad & we’re okay
But no one can get ahold of family down Kanawha so pray.
I am eight years old, when we had to climb and hope
Our cats and goats and little house would survive,
When rivers ran down us, around us, and grass to mud
Under our feet, but we made it to the top, And Father
Played rock-paper-scissors with me until I fell asleep.
No word yet, I really shouldn’t leave the house because dirt roads
Aren’t too good in a flood. You know. So keep on praying.
I was eight that flood, and now, so was little Emanual,
Walking in the shallow creek behind the Dairy Queen
When the flood came and pulled him from his mother.
Just last week, I stood on the bank of this river, bending
Toward the water, thinking, This is the way a world could end.
They’re okay. But you know how the hollers are. Everyone knows
someone and lots have lost their houses. Course flood insurance
too high for most of us. Neighbors talk of moving
or just selling rights to the frackers to get a new house.
I go to this river. I always go to the river. On my knees,
I watch the foam, the branches, the grasses underneath.
There is no way to bend this. This is far from ending.
There is only a way to begin, and to begin, and to begin.