the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Richard Levine


The buffalo were gone. No more jawbone
sledding in snow, after the pemmican
was skin-bagged, the hides tanned into warm
robes and moccasins, tooled and sown
by repurposed sinews and bones, the scat dried
and ready for a fire. And Crazy Horse was gone, too.

And when Sitting Bull surrendered in Montana,
Big Horn paintings of great hunts and battles slipped
from cave walls and stampeded down mountains
that trembled under their ghostly weight.
Thunderous rains hammered the arid land
like the hooves of endless hump-shouldered herds
that chewed up the grass and exploded the dust
to raise a spirit-cloud vast as loneliness.



Upon returning from the Moon,
most astronauts did not remain
with the women they were married to
before going. Going became
the end of the first time they learned
to defy gravity and time
and space. It's the heart of every
story about how an old couple met,
roots set deep to hold their place
through cold seasons in a light
that whispers: the world does not stay
the same once you've looked in
from the outside, and the blue misty
island keeps floating away in a sea of ink.



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