Friday, December 02, 2016

Late Sun across the Park

These days are growing shorter, exacerbated by the foolishness of Daylight Saving Time! 
We have to be careful to slot the daily walk in before dark. Today we just made it!

The Kiskiminetas River

It begins in the seepage of salt wells
as if waking from a dream of the sea
before it gathers itself and runs

for twenty-seven restless, hardworking
miles, only to lose itself, swept inland
toward Pittsburgh and the vast Ohio Valley.

Kiskiminetas: the Lenape name means
clear stream of many bends or break camp,
the etymology unclear but apt:

whenever the Lenapes tried to settle,
someone came along and moved them
to a place no one wanted.

My grandfather, in Italy a farmer, dug coal
not far from where it empties into the Allegheny.
His sons would inherit and divide his labor:

coal mines, steel mills, foundries.
The river turned sulfur-orange and stank
from all the mines draining into it—

nothing could live in its waters.
Even the stones of the riverbed took on
the petrified figures of the lost:

Shy Charlie, who took a header off the bridge;
Bobby, who slipped into the current
like raw sewage; my father, who flew

his car over its cindered embankments
in the hard winter of my birth.
Nothing is held in place by a name;

the river changes and is ever changeless.
Today, the mines are closed; the small towns
seem emptier and forlorn at night;

the river runs clear, its surface
shifting in the slant of morning light
or the passing shadows of its seasons.

On the bluffs, overlooking the valley,
my grandfather and his sons have come to rest
among the now, or soon to be, forgotten.

                         from The Southern Review

Peter Everwine

The Best American Poetry 2016, edited by Edward Hirsch,
Simon and Schuster, 2016. pages 32-33.

I have been a fan of Peter Everwine's poetry for quite some time.
If you use the search box in the upper left corner of this blog to search "Everwine" you will find some poems which demonstrate the variety of his work. Not very many other people, for instance, have been working to bring the songs of the Aztecs back to where we can grasp them.

This poem is an example of how place, family history, emigration, natural history--threads from stories we all weave--can create the fabric of a memorable poem. This is a small river--and a large-hearted poem! In your own poem, set yourself the task of using your own material in such an abundant and evocative way.

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