On One River We Listen to Music of Another River
by Athena Kildegaard

We took turns tossing your ashes with a cup—
purple violets, a spring flower, hardy, despite
seeming frail—though I reached in to touch your ash.

Our bodies were cool in the May breeze, swallows
swept insects before them, cars trundled across
the bridge upriver from where we stood on sand.

After we let your ashes go, a few of us stayed
to listen to The Moldau on a boombox, the sound
frail in the outdoors. Years before, you and our father

left us with a babysitter and drove to the river,
to be alone, to fish and drink, to argue, probably,
although perhaps that was something you only did

in public. And you turned on the engine of the car
so that you could listen to music, public radio,
and the two of you undressed and lay down

in the music and touched one another and wept,
because you wept at music no matter how tender
or how bold, and The Moldau was both, hunters

chasing a fox and nymphs bathing by moonlight
in the river’s flowing waters, pale and steady,
the music swirling and unspooling,

so we listened to Smetana as your ashes flowed
and our father, who was with us, was
with you, in that summer when mosquitoes

weren’t too bad, and the river rippled and spun
in the moonlight, and touching you was sweet
and slow and muddy and enough.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 20, Issue 1.

Athena Kildegaard is the author of four books of poems and a fifth is forthcoming from Tinderbox Editions in March 2018. Her poems have been set to song, read by Garrison Keillor, nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and stamped into pottery. She lives and teaches in Morris, MN.

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