by Kelly Terwilliger

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.

Kelly Terwilliger is the author of Riddle, Fish Hook, Thorn, Key, and a previous chapbook, A Glimpse of Oranges. Her poems have appeared in journals including December Magazine, Poet Lore, Hunger Mountain. She works as an oral storyteller and artist-in-residence in public schools.

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