At the Edge of Mississippi

At the Edge of the Mississippi
 
After years of watching a brick-lined horizon,
I returned to the river’s tattered body, listened
for a murmur to surface, to remind me
that hope once abandoned can be regained.
 
There were no flowers along the riverbank,
no ducks resting in the mud, only a shadow
cast by the highway overpass and some crows
scurrying about the sidewalk for crumbs.
 
What might have been a prayer
was a boat gurgling in the distance,
and the murky water veiled those pleas
the history books obscure as when numbers
 
steal prisoners’ names. I waited to see
if spirits would make themselves known
in the metronome of water carving land,
but the river remained a river, nothing more.  
 
I scooped a handful of sand, rubbed it
between my palms until they chafed.
I held a stone like ice to my lips and sank
my feet into the silt until they numbed.
 
I wish I could say the gestures changed me,
or that the city was made whole for a moment
by this act of veneration, in my willingness to hold
the river as a sacramental in a penitent’s hand.
 
Turning from the water, I saw a police caravan
block several downtown streets without fanfare.
The silence spread its smoke between buildings
and clung to my skin a stench I could not shake.  

 

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