I clear the Grand Bar, the sun a burnished disk
above the gaudy gambling town of Metropolis.
A lone paddlefish, like an ICBM, launches
over the waste pits of Allied Chemical and Dye
squared off into sections for evaporation,
the floodplain furry with bayou and swamp.
The click and buzz of cicadas sink into a spell,
a roulette wheel spinning above the flat green waters.
A skiff with an excited fisherman stops
to show his winnings, his boat filled with catfish:
each of four 80-pounders with huge shovel heads,
curving mouths, whiskers the size of pencils,
hides like pale clouds moved by the slick scythes
of their tails; his happiness an incredible surprise.
I wonder how many chips he’ll need to eat those fish.
He speeds off promising garden tomatoes.
Joppa is a levee town nestled a half-mile back
from watermarks 20 feet up in the cottonwoods.
Lunch is served southern style at the Mid-Day Café,
in the living room of a home on Main Street.
When I return to the dory, there’s a paper sack
full of fresh tomatoes. Just as you think you know,
the answer finds you out.
I sweep into the easy arms of a mile-wide river,
a pack of dogs jogging along on the gun metal beach
beneath the broad shoulders of a power station.
The map shows a navigable depth, so I line up
parallel to the old dam’s guide wall, rowing for steerage.
Although not plunging, the whitewater starts
to consume me, waves becoming fiery coals, curled chips
of blue steel overflowing the weir, a hot pointed tongue
singing of the steeplechase below. Until, fleetingly,
there’s a rasping, a hidden gargling as if all of this
might suddenly end in a swallowing.
I bound through tines of sharpened sunset
piercing the evening hush beneath a bridge
that strides across the river on massive footings,
on concrete piers reinforced by ligaments of iron.
And there is no way I can become any smaller.
There is no way to slow the pacing of this world.
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 22, Issue 3.
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