Black River

You believe you must be beginning again.
The river opens to accept your first step,
and you’re into it up to your knees—
the water’s wrestle brotherly, bracing.
You start across, shouldering goods
you believe you’ll need on the far side.
Waist-deep now. Feeling for rooted stones
through sopping boots. Surely this is where
you crossed before; there are no unknown
channels, no abysses, though the current
does seem swifter than you remember,
and darker (of course, it’s only dusk
coming on, staining the air and water;
and the river—you believe—only seems
to be growing wider). Chest-deep now.
Icy water races past your racing heart,
under raised arms that ache to balance
whatever you carry, what you must (you
suddenly understand) be willing to let go.
Chin-deep. Perched on a slippery stone
that shifts with each shivering breath.
No choice but to take the next step—
deeper into the black river, farther
toward the shore of ink-black pines
over which the feverish stars have risen
and the cold comfort of a bone-white moon.

(first published in Poetry)