Thursday, March 15, 2012


 A Muskingum Thanksgiving, 2002. Painting by Sara Wright,
looking from the Dresden Belle across the river to Nancy Ann.

In winter, we would go to the boat for quiet weekends
uninterrupted by the noise of daily routine.
The crisp breeze turned the river's ripples into sharp crescents
as the cold air nicked my face with little pins.
I dipped my bucket into the river,
drawing up water almost crystal clear,
the summer's clay having sunk to the bottom
taking with it the season's secrets.

In summer I loved to fish off the boat, 
pulling out sleek gray catfish.
I liked to look at them, to feel their rough mouths
and check their gills as I avoided 
the sting of their sharp barbels,
the whiskers that gave the fish its name.
Their black eyes stared back at me, their captor,
and I always felt ashamed, afraid
I'd done them irreparable harm.
I marveled at their sleek, shiny skin
that held a thousand million scent organs
to pick up the river's stories from miles around.

The catfish heard the furtive footfalls on the deck, 
the loud, unhappy voices weaving lies that curled
into the night air as the bonfire's sparks 
reached toward the galaxy of stars.
They swam in the fetid odor of nicotine
and alcohol sweat washed into the river from the boat,
swept to the murky depths where the secrets lay
before the cold came and, for another brief season,
the water seemed crystal clear, 
inverting lies with false clarity.

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