A child called down the street
& everyone in my hometown forgave me.
No one mentioned the drugs, the felony, or the Flood of ’72.
I stand on the dike smoking & thinking
about the day I convinced my whole class to hunt
down the boy with soft hands who prayed to the forest.
I smoke & shift
between my body & the drag above
into the bone of sunlight.
My life is half-covered by old, red rain
& everyone in town has forgotten how to sing,
Shame, a deluge, composes across their sleeping lives.
With a war behind me, I walk to the river.
I sail through the crisp air & sink my head
into the Chemung. As a child, I lost control
of a spark & burned a forest at her edge.
My teachers told me that she was sentient, that every decade
she rises to take a human sacrifice, to claim the debts we owe.
Goldenrod, mallards, willows, & water. This water wrote a sonata
that swallowed the Twin Tiers. The Cohocton, Canisteo, Tioga
have long returned to their channels,
slowly bleeding toward the Chesapeake.
Her water pours
& glints in the altar of my throat.
A child calls,
down the river, pulling up a steelhead trout,
something clean from the headwaters. In the mountains,
above Route 86, a flame falls asleep in the soft slow
hand of rain.
I walk back to town
where no one remembers my name
& the valley gathers
its silences in.