Tracy L. Seffers lives with her family under the shadow of the Blue Ridge on the Shenandoah River in West Virginia. She earned her BA in English at Lyon College in Arkansas, and her MA in English at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. Her poetry has been featured in public readings with the Jefferson County Arts and Humanities Alliance, the West Virginia Writers podcast series, and the Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence program at Shepherd University in West Virginia; and has been published in the Bluestone Review and the Anthology of Appalachian Writers. Two of her poems will appear in the next edition of Assisi: An Online Journal of Arts and Letters through St. Francis College in New York.
To Know a River
(for a 23rd anniversary)
To know a river like an old friend—
that this spot is too shallow even for your nimble kayak,
that there in the quiet hallow behind that island, the heron build their nests,
that here the current confuses itself around blind submerged rocks
and will tear the paddle from your hands—
To know a river for these long years is not to say
that it cannot, even now, surprise you—
that the comic flap and dive of the curmudgeonly turtle
will no longer make you laugh out loud,
that the startle of wing and fin
cannot race your heart,
that the benison of the eagle's cry
no longer sings itself in your blood,
that the sudden fountain of butterflies clustering on the shore
cannot still the engine of thought
nor draw you into that quivering congregation of antennae and wing
murmuring to itself in all its silent ways: "Oh, you are beautiful;
tell me I am beautiful, too."
To live with a river is to understand
that it changes and surprises
even as you live your daily tedium,
happy or discontented, on its nearer shore.
How long does it take, I wonder,
to say that you know a river?
Twenty-three years and more, I suppose,
is not too long to know and yet still be surprised,
to know that the bleaching whale-bone of the fallen sycamore
does not sing the whole story, the full history of storm and flood,
the torn-root damage that we sorrow over but cannot heal.
Not too long to hope again for that trembling moment,
like the delicate touch of wing:
Oh love, you are beautiful; tell me I am beautiful, too.
Two-Dog Night (Insomnia)
From my side of the bed, certain sounds freeze
me into stillness: the turning tick of
fan blades; the happy sigh of your good dog
who sleeps in simple, silent faithfulness;
and through the floor beneath, where Annie cries,
confined to kennel and to cage, the click
of nails against her prison wall, the moan
and whine of sorrow, or regret. Some sounds,
and yet their absence too, can lock me in:
stale air unstirred—breath too long unreleased—
the silence when I turn to you. Like her,
I cannot move beyond this wall. She yearns
for hands to open, voice to beckon her
to warmth and welcome on the other side.