Nothing has waited for me. The river shrugs 
its fog shawl. Fisher birds shriek, light 
whitewing flecks of untouched watercolor 
paper, watchful of what bubbles in the ink. 
From a forgetful distance I’m returning 
to beauty out of harsh grief, ugly, out of 
breath or practice. Returning is the decision 
to live. Or. Returning is the discovery
nothing has waited for me.

Mass graves were never found here only
because no one looked. Burials grown over 
by the beauty, or is it the wildness of time? 
The abundance of it. I recite tributes 
with neither scrap nor pen, gasping for calm 
palpating pockets and ribs for something 
to grasp while I walk. I don’t smoke. Will I 
find the place? Will I, mud, remember?


If forgetting is an ache, 
grief for forgetting is a fresh slap, 
the welts of each finger needling. 
Yes, that’s exactly where it was.
Where once landed a slap forever 
remains, humiliation the shape of a human 
hand. Flesh memory of a father. Yes, there.

I’ve taken to medieval means 
of kindling memory, clapping 
calm around candles, singing 
names of trees & their beasts.
Palmetto sabal and saw 
a hammock for egrets,
brackish water fecund 
mudflat for sidling fiddler crabs. 
Sudden terror of unseen hunt
crumple, crash, splash out of danger 
the marsh rabbit swims fantastical,
reminding me I am not alone 
and for more than beating
rebeating the footpaths,
I am fearfully ill-equipped.
No one appointed me witness.


The scrubland is named, 
as so much of America is named, 
for a massacre. Matanzas,
I sink heel-first down, 
scraping at mud-words 
for the meaning of blood-deeds. 
As if I could commit 
to memory this magnitude one rose 
quartz pebble, one osprey feather 
at a time. Does the sum total 
conjure and reassemble the field-
dressed hare, turn him rightside 
out in spring-motion escape?

Childhood I spent hours staring 
into the mirror to learn my face, surprised 
I did not already know. Now surprised 
I do not remember where
my father’s eyelids folded. I will check 
my own again and again to discover 
the answer shifts
like the river’s bulging belly.


Egrets in their talcum silence 
wait for the water to rise up silver 
platter full of silver fish.
Each day an astonishment of bounty.
My father, too, was a fisherman,
silver curled blade delving into silver 
curled gill, the whole morning sky 
fileted open, flushing pink. 
I try to remember the names 
of fish, the little he said. Bone words 
piercing the throat. The birds know 
beyond names. Swallowing whole.
Birds know hunting 
is waiting. History, too, a waiting 
for water to rise or recede.

Not as a river delivering fish—as fog,
a gloom of remembrance, it materializes 
even as it disappears, singularly
helpless and irrepressible,
a child’s breath on a mirror. 

Photo by Karl Callwood on Unsplash