i crave the comfort of unpolished
granite, especially the thin, domed tablets.
the dead do not ask me to understand
their torment. never have they
slammed my doors or spun my hanging
plants to show their presence.
when the seemingly endless plots
stretch from all sides—a compact city
emptied of activity—the stillness
waiting within feels pleasant.
even in rio, the cemetery with its huge
above-ground stone coffins, its trellis
vines and jesus statues, embraced like a
warm cousin. i could carry my pink glow,
my painful vocabulary, my yellowed hair
and be not familiar, but welcome.
remember: no matter where you go
or stay, no matter how many closed faces
you must plead with in a lifetime,
finally a door will open
swimming through history
i. the truckee and the skagit
ankle-deep in summertime, the truckee
lets you climb down and taste it,
but the wide, deep skagit
demands a firmer commitment.
ii. learning the skagit
at home, when i'm getting more
than a glimpse through a car window,
i'm walking the dike
above the skagit, kingly or queenly,
the way dutch farmers devised it.
glancing, these downstream waters
look still as a painting, linger in one spot,
yet the whole mass rushes.
but once, upstream in early
december, i watched the last chum
undulate in slow motion, their bodies
ripped by so many rocks
in their against-current trek
that blood streaked them. only
a few swam; the rest floated. the sight
made the toil of sisyphus
look easy. another time, i saw the tiny
nearly finless body of a juvenile
barely larger than a tadpole, stranded
on the beach at deception pass.
the silver body throbbed at the gill
while the oversized eye stared upward.
when i cupped the fingerling in my hands
to throw it back to sea, it flopped
down to escape me.
still, all my looking makes
just a drop next to the hours
i sit and write brief after brief
to keep more water in the banks
during the months when the skagit
is lowest or negotiate day in,
day out for salmon to have more water
to spawn and rear in, only to find myself
lost and cut off. i long to squish
my fingers and toes in mud or throw
my body headlong into current.
what wisdoms and strengths would the river
feed me if i could let myself go?
but how to face the great surge of life,
bearing effort that may come to nothing?
iii. visiting the truckee
yesterday, remembering all this, i climbed
down to the truckee. here and there, logs made
crevices where adult fish could build redds.
i lay on a rock and let the river tug my feet
feeling how easily it could crush my unnimble
body on the rocks. i peered at the little pools
along the sides of the banks, and saw how the sun
shining through slower ripples
made a pulsing snakeskin pattern. i thought of the newly
hatched fry who might shelter there
except that—thanks to the dam and other
interference—the lahontan cutthroat
who ruled these reaches were killed off
more than sixty years ago.
now, stocked trout and ghosts swim here.
Ann Tweedy loves traveling, especially the strangeness of being an outsider in a tiny town and the disorientation of exploring foreign countries. She's shy but relishes the rush of doing the things that scare her. While in law school, she studied poetry writing with Robert Hass. She currently teaches law at Hamline University in St. Paul. Her poetry has been widely published in journals and anthologies, including Rattle, Clackamas Literary Review, and Wisconsin Review, and she has been nominated for both a Pushcart Prize and a Best of the Net Award. She also has read in New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis, and elsewhere. tcCreativePress of Los Angeles published her chapbook in 2010.