In the tent-quiet dark, when the fishermen give up their secrets,
I heard one old man tell another, I’m afraid of the Columbia;
I’m afraid of the ocean. He sounded like someone who had lost
more people to big water than I could imagine, so he’d resigned
himself to fishing only tributaries, though they, too, contain rapids
and rocks, pull people under each year. Last night, I sat on a blanket
next to the Columbia, watched the moonrise, listened to Jesse
play songs about moon and water. Moondance. Nightswimming.
I thought about the ways you can miss someone who is right
next to you. When parts of them are already gone. Some things
will always be a symbol of something that isn’t still there.
A clearing that used to be a cabin. A concrete slab that used
to be a grain silo. A single pelican passed overhead. The black fringe
of his wings looked like the eyelashes of the sky. The moonlight
formed a path on the water that looked like I could walk it.
The lapping of the river said, I love, I love, I love. I wanted
to wade in to hear the rest of the river’s song, knew I would
drown before I would ever find out what it was the river loved.
Shaindel Beers is the author of two full-length poetry collections, A Brief History of Time (2009) and The Children’s War and Other Poems (2013), both from Salt Publishing. She is the Poetry Editor of Contrary Magazine and teaches at Blue Mountain Community College.