... Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river...
All winter we waited for the music of this
whole-hearted return of the river’s flow,
ice breaking apart, the moon’s cold kiss
on water loosely translated from snow,
greening the valley a spring wind at a time.
Flowers we’d forgotten we knew by heart –
bloodroot and violet, wild columbine
infused by something older and stranger than art.
Daily notes of arrival and farewell call
through the shifting veils of the waterfall.
The osprey’s shadow, her headlong dive
are part of the hunger that keeps us alive.
What we see reflected in the moving stream,
what shines on the quick water’s face
is a local version of the world’s long dream,
like the lasting wonder of a brief embrace.
We who live by rivers live two ways –
coming and going, all the years and days
until not only the fields, but the feeling is fed.
The human heart is part of the watershed.
And deep within, from the marrow of bones
another river flows into the night –
from fingertips, voices, and microphones.
We dance in its shadow. We live by its light.
For those who come later along this path
may the current accompany our epitaph —
At the confluence of rivers we stood our ground.
The music of water was the wealth of our town.
Max Garland is the author of The Word We Used for It, winner of the 2017-18 Brittingham Poetry Prize. Previous books include The Postal Confessions, winner of the Juniper Prize for Poetry, and Hunger Wide as Heaven, which won the Cleveland State Poetry Center Open Competition, He has received an NEA Poetry Fellowship, a Michener Fiction fellowship, inclusion in Best American Short Stories, and fellowships in both poetry and fiction from the Wisconsin Arts Board. Born and raised in Kentucky, where he worked as a rural letter carrier on the route where he was born, he is Professor Emeritus at UW-Eau Claire, a former Writer-in-Residence for the city of Eau Claire, and the former Poet Laureate of Wisconsin. Find more by and about Max on his VolumeOne.org author page.