What I Left at the Black River
SUNY Jefferson
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What I Left at the Black River

Laurie Lind Petersen, 2008

It’s a hot day, and my last two sons
and I go down to the river for a breeze
that isn’t there, but at least something is moving:
in fact, three things: The river.
The trucks on the bridge.  Our bare feet.

We pick our way around the moss
streaming from pipes in thick, sick strands
like sewer sludge. I like the riverwood
that the water has shaped into soft alphabets
from languages we’ve forgotten how to read.
The boys are more interested in finding rocks
they can barely carry, to heave into the current
and try to rile the river more than it’s already riled.

Most of the people pulled from these rapids
didn’t need saving, were out joyriding
on tubes and boards while someone home worried.
Not everyone who’s lost is lost. The boys got bored,
and we put our shoes on to climb back up.

One of them will come back another day
to test himself against the river,
and the other one never will.