ARTHRITIS OF THE HANDS IN WINTER

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“By the waters of Babylon we lay down and wept as we remembered Zion”

Down the little White Salmon, a body of fog exactly wide

as the river is floating.

Crows on both sides cawing to each other

choking and gargling the language of crows.

In my right hand a little wind circumambulates five swollen hillocks of knuckle bone

where fires have been built.

That’s how I feel it.

That’s how I know the sky has come down to the riverbed

where white egrets are murmuring,

and their murmuring is a twin to the sound of currents.

I am only a white man walking by a green river in a modest fog.

If there is meaning here, I leave it to debating crows

but my left hand, the color of wonder bread, is open

offering a flow of air across the palm and back to sky.

The One without a name who takes the shape of water and of air

is also present in fire.

……………………………….

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PARKED AT THE WHITE SALMON RIVER, READY FOR WORK

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Late Spring 2013

On Wednesday morning, I wait for Ray Miller at the mouth of the White Salmon.
Working on a rich woman’s horse barn today.
Power wash, scrape old wood and if the water dries in time
mask windows.
Tomorrow paint the barn the color of a deep bruise,
of blood pooled under the skin.
Spray and back brush. Get paid Friday.

Over the truck hood see the moon just past full
blanched by morning sun but still visible in cloud.
Hear the call of a mourning dove across the White Salmon,
the sound decaying in fog.

News on radio of the Tongue River flood, Cavalier, North Dakota.
There is a river moving through me uncontrollable as a woman.
Cattle drowned, horns caught in exposed roots of cottonwoods
floating on their bloated sides, tongues still moving
in the current.

Words want to form in my mouth that taste of dewberries
words that follow me
as little winds turning oak leaves in a circle.
Lies about safety and salvation that flare in the mind
but disappear before they can be spoken
though the tongue keeps moving.

Ray parks next to me, gets into the truck and I come back to myself.
The moon, the morning dove, the White Salmon and the fog are bodies
I am alive in.
Train whistle, barge horn, shriek of osprey diving into the Columbia for salmon
speak for me.