The path turned and a wall of stone
rose there where some ancient
river had carved it. It was lit by setting light. And the nowriver
turned in a big slow arc, spreading out the way water does
when it can, when all that space gives it time to grow
almost still and dark shapes of ducks swim or float
surrounded by such
brightness you have to blink and blink to take it in.
It was then I saw that what I thought
were still more ducks
were otters instead, looping around
in that bright and liquid place, lifting themselves, craning up
to get a better look at what was coming. I’d like to be able to say
how glad I was to see them. How I felt—
where was it? Under the throat, beneath the ribs,
where breathing begins, and changes direction.
Sometimes I get lost
trying to be someone else, afraid
that what I live or live among is not enough to mention.
But the light is fading no—
not yet, but I know it will, the window of it
closing, so we have to stand in this brightness together
now, if we’re going to stand in it at all.
The ducks have seen us
and rise in a kind of panic
We’re far away but I suppose they can’t forget
how fast a gun begins and ends, even if we don’t have one.
They rise in a rush of beating
heartmuscle, wing, their bare feet hitting the slick
shift of river that slides beneath them.
Pretend you are with me. Back where it’s flowing fast,
can you see the torrents of bubbles beaten under?
So much air folding into water. A constant churn.
Do you want to put your arms in, too?
If you could, without falling?
And the slap of those feet saying
live live live. I don’t want to carry fear
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 23, Issue 4.
See all items about Kelly Terwilliger