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.
so many things can get lost
forever. like that cutting I stole
from a prickly pear outside the Mexican place
in Oyster Point when I lived there
for six weeks, learning
to deliver babies. never did
get it to bloom, and never did catch
a kid, either: one little bud
all I wanted to make it feel a little less
like killing time. I hauled
the thing back up the coast, nurtured
it for years, flowerless; left it with the rest
on the backporch that day after
mother died. haven’t troubled
my hand with cactus since—
the yard all lavender and rose now,
like that bubblebath I brought her
that she never got to use,
only with thorns.
i hold the hurt in the hollow bowl of my hips,
tipping my head to look for shooting stars
amid the fireworks. a too-
wet summer crawls up the newly scrubbed base
of the monument behind us: southern soldiers
un-graffiti-ed before September’s big race.
it doesn’t feel like independence, somehow,
or even reconciliation; more like a love
fizzled out before ever hitting night air.