Friday, July 7, 2017


Every Winter

The Snake River slithers
up to the old man’s house every winter
through oak thickets and brambles,
through a latticework of layered leaves.
It carries enough driftwood to build
a city. He lives close to the tumbling water,
close to all he knows -- near catfish, bass,
bream and gar.

Always he hears the climbing
ripples slink away like the woman
who brought him crooning to her nest,
the cottage of her fingers, who inhabits
his study of rage and remorse, whose face
he sees blood-red and stamped on the sky
big as a harvest moon.
The cloudy night carries him
through desire. It swaddles him
through a tour of every woman
he has known, through torrents
of elegance when he reaches for flesh
and blood but finds only bed sheets,
when he hears only his heartbeat and
the distant howl of a neighbor’s dog.
His voice courses through a fever
of starlight, a promenade of echoes.
He is poised on the edge of a mystery
he cannot command, a chorus he cannot escape.
Life is a one-act play that loves to repeat itself.
The river covers the sounds of his prayers,
the rumbles of his body’s ecstasy, the memory
of a summer that curled his torso. The water
swallows every approaching sound. He lives
by its permission.

Joel Fry

(Published in Birmingham Arts Journal.)

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