Emma DePanise

Bench Marsh
by Emma DePanise

I’m sure other kids had some log (alligator) peering
out of some rancid water. Plum Creek to Valentine, the Severn
River to the Chesapeake—I’m sure this creek was
like any other. I’m sure other kids tore stalk and stem
and paper airplaned green arrowheads into sailboats the wind told
which way to pass the minnows and muck, which way to carry
this earthy stench. Eighty-something

steps from backyard to swamp ended
in a narrow dock, a rusted canoe, a coffee can for bailing
and a wooden bench. Eighteen skinny planks nailed to a frame
allowed us to sit, to sit and throw last week’s bread
to whatever would bite, whatever bit. And it was nice

to hover, to know float and free while still
tethered. And the bench said don’t mind the sweat, said stay
awhile and look,
said there was something here
to look for. And when we found enough we went back up to relay
our list—blue-heron-call, wild berries, stray

bowling ball. And you were always
waiting at the top to listen until the steps
outnumbered you. And we learned carrying

lists to ourselves. And the bench said there was still something
to look for without someone to tell. And I’ve seen

the bench-boards separating
from the foundation. I’ve seen the gap, heard the creaks
and cracks. I’ve felt the tide pull

the wood closer. And right now
the nails still hold, but I imagine fissure, imagine the ripples
I’ll read as the black mud swallows, sinks
and shivers. And the sunken boards will keep
silence and whatever we gave them, will wait to be found

or not. And the dock will say stand here and turn
And I like to think we wouldn’t

listen. We’d walk the steps and lie on the planks
and I like to think we’d look for
awhile, for gnats or stars.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 22, Issue 1.

Emma DePaniseEmma DePanise’s poems are forthcoming or have appeared recently in journals such as Poet Lore, Puerto del Sol, Quarterly West, The National Poetry Review and elsewhere. She is a winner of a 2019 AWP Intro Journals Award, an M.F.A. candidate at Purdue University and an editor for The Shore Poetry, an online poetry journal.

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