Before I knew that rivers would deceive
I sat on a dusty iron bridge to watch
the stale summer breath of a California stream
float beneath my hardened feet.
Walnuts and willows dipped their canopies
on banks of velvet moss, gleaming
liquid as enchantment.
I wanted that cushioned landing.
I’d like to jump down there, I should have said
to Grandfather, who would have warned –
Instead, I just shoved off.
The drop was quick and sweet
Until the land mirage revealed itself
as floating leaves, and the river grabbed
my ankles, knees, and breath
and slimy logs harassed my hips
and my naked toes met liquid weeds
while my hair, above all, swam loose and free
in dark, maple light that came to me
as I kicked hard, like a dog, for the air.