Uncoded

the river swells in her bed, an ocean
trapped in an earthy body. the rains

haven’t stopped all summer; violence
ripples in her skin. on the right shoulder

of the bridge, an ambulance
idles flashing. 20 feet ahead, the water

rescue team is parked, bright red against
gray concrete. men

lean into the rail, searching,
their whole minds in their eyes,

scanning movement for movement,
pushing the churn of fear

down behind only: see.
there is a faith in this, whatever

they believe at home on a Sunday.
a blind looking, in hope.

one gets a message
on the radio at his hip.

they climb back in their trucks.
there is nothing

but current below, wild ever-dance
of waters downstream. a sadness

in the way the ambulance pulls
away, its lights extinguished.

 

augury for the beginning of one of the coldest januaries in living record

the day we left dad’s, snow
ghosted down across the back deck,
slowly painting the grey wood
white. swaying heavy
on skinny limbs overhead, vulture after
vulture fixed a black stare out
into the yard at some death,
some dying we couldn’t see.
no thrashing of a creature in pain,
no blood, no movement:
all we saw was the rust of dead leaves,
the bony outlines of oaks at the end
of another long year. and still
they sat, and still more came, and sat,
and waited. at least 20, 30, their backs to us
as we looked up, and wondered,
as we loaded the car and drove away slow.

Misnomer

Somewhere off Cherokee Road
the hills roll and the azaleas,
dogwoods litter the banks
of the dropped shoulder
with prom dress colors,
like this neck of the woods
was made for sweet sixteen.
Passing through for the first time,
I don’t understand: the Cherokee
never knew this southside
central Virginia suburb
as home; this
was Mattaponi land, or Pamunkey,
Pocahontas’ people—
not made for pastel-
lined driveways, houses
set back facing the road
like rubber-neckers
after a loud crash of histories.
Where last year’s leaffall
is manicured into groomed mounds
of might-have-beens,
and the latest models
sit sparkling in whitewashed
gravel beds. And yet, the drive
is pleasant enough,
Victorian voice
on the smartphone
alerting me of the next turn
off, so that I, as well as the azaleas,
dogwoods, can enjoy the scenery
without overthinking
where the journey ends.