the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night


Spring 2013



Christopher Locke

Day Five

Rain, unlike power, has a great soul
—Bruce Smith: "Salt Talks"

Clouds persist, dense as iron
and draped low with gray breath
and constant weeping. The maple
leaves slobber like pitiful tongues in
search of a face. Long evenings

sluiced with dirtsong and pebble,
the wooded path erodes in a slow
mumble of rivulets as nearby pine
grip the earth tighter, fearful
their roots will become exposed

like dark sex, all that shame, until
they are unplugged from the mountain-
side and their green goes out as they tilt,
slide into it—carried away on their backs
by the mud's small, treacherous hands.


The Fever

Ridden with flu, you finally collapse
into sleep and dream of gruesome
intestines slipping mutely between

your fingers until you gasp awake,
pawing at your stomach, your heart
thick and pounding its salted alarm.

Now you must lie there, alone,
listening to night's dark hesitations,
the sheets balled up at your feet like

underwear, and how can you think
about sex at a time like this, the skim
of fever still rouging your cheeks?

But you can see her so clearly:
your first girlfriend on the last
night you ever felt her moving

above you, her thighs and pelvis
throwing sparks as she parted her
lips, her mouth wet with empty

language, the air strange and electric,
and her hands firm on your shoulders
as if to prove you would never escape


Rats, Midnight

— for Jim Daniels

Foiled by sobriety, three young punks
menace the sidewalks and sterile
boxwood homes in their flapping
trench coats and a leather jacket
murdered with green skulls. The boys
don't know they're searching for life
beyond some vision of loneliness. Up
ahead, their path clots with hushed
movement: a darker shape crouched
and limping, and the boys lean in. That's
when the rat leaps onto a leg, the boy
now screaming, kicking, the rat's teeth
caught in the pearl strands of light weaving
down from the streetlamp, until
at last he launches it, ass over elbow,
against a cement wall. And then all three
are upon it, stomping, steel toes crunching
the matchstick bones, all of their anger
expelled with the creature's last breath,
fouling the air, their clothes, their streets
devoid of idiot cops until all they've left
is a rasp in the throat and a baptism
of sweat rinsing their bodies clean.



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