The Child River (with Monkey Burn)

James Reidel

A walking stick, which taps the green footbridge, testing the first few boards, following a few bars of the brown notation all through the woods—the worried lunch bag paper of dead beech leaves, which hang on through the winter, and they provide the only rustle, the only greenery, so to speak, or where the color peeled off the picture, such that whatever is seen here is not painted with good linseed oil that lasts, or on cloth with a tight weave, more at kraft paper and half-dry finger paints, which are so thick and strong at first, that would resist and sometimes resist more than a little. There was some evidence for this, in the way her slim wrist gave across from me at the art table, as though from nowhere, as though her hand had been taken by a ghost that bled in those few colors. And suddenly I realize I have been twisting the wood rail of the bridge in two different directions, while thinking the water would be the blue, the banks the green, the stick trees the brown, and the gray dots for the stones or stations you must climb upstream, to where a swale meets it, a meadow of mostly wild strawberry. The earth still sparkles wet here, wherever prints fill with what will be a river eventually, the undertow, which nurses here, sucking on the deer’s hooves, the devil’s cattle.

James Reidel has published poems in many journals as well as Jim’s Book (Black Lawrence Press 2014) and My Window Seat for Arlena Twigg (Black Lawrence 2006) and has very recent work in the March 2016 issue of Poetry, Queen Mob’s Teahouse and the forthcoming Hawai’i Review. He is also the biographer of the poet Weldon Kees and a translator who has published works by Thomas Bernhard, Georg Trakl, Franz Werfel and Robert Walser. He is currently working on a collection of prose poems. In 2013, he was a James Merrill House fellow.

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