This River We’re Crossing
Like the day we brought the baby home,
everything seems too bright,
too large and loud, this bridge a million
miles long. Then, I wanted to go back
to Good Sam, where a star magnolia
bloomed beneath my window
and the nurses wore quiet shoes.
Today, the same thundering semis, same
gorge wind shuddering the car. I’m afraid
to take my eye off the highway,
to ask if you heard what the surgeon said.
Below us, sun sparks the whitecaps
and sailboats, the picture-book lean
of their sails. Impossible from here
to see which way the current is moving,
impossible to tell how fast.
When Carol reads her poem
with its phrase, earth’s late afternoon,
I think of birds on their way
elsewhere— geese in efficient
formation, pelicans the color of mud.
Gullets and the great engines
of their wings unevolved over millions of years.
For the first time in anyone’s memory,
they’ve abandoned eons-old flight plans
for the refuge of farm ponds, spring-fed
and clear despite drought. Carol reads
earth’s late afternoon and I think
of scorched caneberries. The hell-summer
scent of smoke.
Winter is coming.
Quince and crabapple trucked to market,
the last of the pole beans drying on bamboo.
What migrates will go.
Carol herself is leaving, her husband
is dying, and they’ve sold their farm.
She reads and I think of spiders
nesting in the toolshed, gapped floorboards
welcoming the wintering mice.
Someone else’s turn
to patch the barn roof now, to move
the pump from the creek bed
to higher ground.
Emily Ransdell lives and teaches in the Pacific Northwest. Her work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Poet Lore, Tar River Poetry, Terrain, River Styx, Calyx, and elsewhere. She has been a finalist for the Rattle Poetry Prize and the New Millennium Writings Award, and was the 2019 runner-up for the Prime Number Poetry Prize from Press 53 as well as the New Letters Poetry Prize. Her debut poetry collection, One Finch Singing, is forthcoming in late 2023 from Concrete Wolf Press.