River Gods
Jesse Graves
In the lapse-time of remembering, my life
folds back through the warp of this city 
the way the Tennessee River winds through it,
and I live again on the north bank, in Maplehurst,
watching the slow seep of barges downriver,
my blood renewed and coursing old arteries again.
Years break apart, become sediment in the stream
of those distant days, their blue-lobed nights.
Twenty-two and alive only to feel.
Still, I dared it only once, walking the rail trestle 
where Cormac McCarthy’s hillbilly Ulysses 
docked the houseboat and dragged his trawling line.
Who would want to cheat this foolish death alone?
Jason and I left our book bags open on the bank
and stepped out a hundred feet over the night.
We sprang from tie to tie, hoping for solid wood,
for no rumbling train engine beyond the south hill,
our nerve soldered by a half-litre of Maker’s Mark.

The lights from Henley Street laced bright letters
across the water, and we stood, staring down 
into a floating book, our bodies swaying like kites, 
far above the circulations of ancient, whiskered fish,
held aloft by the confluence of blind river gods.
So much of the unknown rushing beneath us.

Originally appeared in The Southern Quarterly

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