Retribution by Kari Gunter-Seymour

When the river comes 
intent, cousin to rain 
and wind, there’s 
no persuading her.

We’ve trained our ears 
to wake, thrum the blood, 
send a buckshot thump to the chest, 
our intuition finely tuned,

sure as eggs is eggs we know
she has jumped her banks, 
a furious froth 
drowning the underbrush,

uprooting bodies, businesses, 
churches, shacks,   
uncloaking the worst of herself,
singing How High the Moon,

the mudness and fish smell 
insufferable, her reach 
unpredictable, the lucky 
scramble to rooftop or summit.

Come morning, like a thought
that gave out, cirrus clouds 
float streaks of pink so sincere
a peony could call them kin.

Piles of collapse and catastrophe 
gash the landscape. We gawk, 
shell shook, ragged—
denial is laborious that way. 

Kari Gunter-Seymour is the Poet Laureate of Ohio. Her poetry collections include Alone in the House of My Heart (Ohio University Swallow Press, 2022) and A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen (Sheila Na Gig Editions, 2020), winner of the 2020 Ohio Poet of the Year Award. She is the editor of I Thought I Heard A Cardinal Sing: Ohio’s Appalachian Voices, funded by the Academy of American Poets and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Women of Appalachia Project’s anthology series, Women Speak

return to sampler            return to poetry             home