Lost Man, River Town

Read Write Word #21

This was written for Read Write Poem Prompt #92: Word Gems. I’ve been influenced by a lot of river songs lately, namely R.E.M.’s “So. Central Rain” and “Find The River”, and “Yes, The River Knows” by The Doors. I was also inspired to write this based on some recent events in my life. This is a long poem in six parts. I hope you enjoy the read.

-Nicole
——————————————————————-

Me, my thoughts are flower strewn
Ocean storm, bayberry moon;
I have got to leave to find my way.

-R.E.M.

I.

He wanders,

a coin lost on the carpet,
mingled in a multitude. A flesh-and-bone moth
in search of flame. He echoes stars inside his belly
that look like the strands of Christmas lights
stretched and wound around the arms of fake trees
sequestered to these country club banquet hall corners –
tiny dots of soft brilliance,
glowing against plastic green and brown. He holds
ripe plums in his eyes – ready to burst, ready to explode and
shatter wine-stained raindrops everywhere. He walks the room,
scans the crowd – and their eyes are veiled
by husks that are made of:

grain and grapes
giving up their ghosts into liquid leisure,
decanting their death into glass containers;

blood ties
with picket fences riding those red rivers –
their intersecting joints of white and wood that whisper
neighbor in their eyes in code that only
those stamped with the name of this town
can decipher; and

their memories – tall and brick,
statuesque and green. The nearby river’s deep has
extended her arms
to cover their heads, drown their souls
in the walking sleep of absorption.

II.

Rewind. 1989.

A social scofflaw, buried in the bowels of the library.

Ensconced inside almond walls
that he barely notices, he hears breath
within pages, breath bound
between leather, plastic, and paper covers. He hears it,
below the surface of clicking computer keys,
below the green-tinged hum of dumb monitors
that only vomit data from some distant mainframe god, and
below the giggle of teenage girls mimicking sunrise
with their black Egyptian lined eyes,
peeking above page edge horizons to stare at him
as he passes. His heart falls two stories, landing somewhere
between his ribcage
and the silent o of his navel – and for a moment,

he wants to search the contents of the giggle,
send a probe into its galaxies,
check to see if there is hidden gold. But he
gives up the search – the river is calling. The pages
flutter up its fluid skin in waves, clicking promises of
stories, the dead, and shipyards in its
paper breath – and now
his fingers

slip between spines,
past covers. He shudders
at the cold of metal bookshelves – it shatters
his fingertip nerves, freezes
his virgin skin.

III.

Summer. 1991.

The nearby river’s bank,
lined with clover, tree, and grass. The remedy
of a few hours away from home: he spilled out,

a lone cell,

into the streets. He bored map tracks with his eyes,
burned ODOT yellow lines,
into the sidewalk: turn left, take the main street north
out of town. And before his feet,

the river flutters
a thousand octagons colored in shades of gold and blue
that she must have stolen
from God’s top secret palette – the same one that he locked away
behind silence and Bible codes
after he kicked the original children
out of the garden. These colors

now call him to sanctuary. This river
whispers to him beyond the wall of ordinary, promising
a quick solution
in her summer-warmed arms: sleep, my love. Close your eyes,
suspend your breath, lay down your lonely
beneath my waves. There will be no mocking
for you here – only solace. Ride my back, and
you can go
home again.
And for a moment,

he stops
and listens
to her iridescent song.

IV.

1994. June.

He stands once again
at the river’s edge. Night shimmers,
painted on her surfaces in blue-black ink
and gold dot promise. He mocks
her wanton offers, her cries for his flesh
by feeding it his cap and gown instead: you can have this. I
don’t want it.
Purple synthetic
written in fake gossamer cloth shine
disappears into her temporal mouth, a portal
opened in time to bury this capsule, these shreds
of himself – and he watches them sink
beneath the surface. Four years,
buried in a town he never asked for, in a school
that never called his name, in a river
he never came to claim.

V.

Nighttime. 2008.

He dips himself beneath the surface,
colliding with evening
in the itinerant suspense of a dream river. In its flesh,
pictures float past his fingers in slow motion, and they always used to drift
out of his reach – but now,
a few land in his hands. Young faces and brick walls,
punctuated with school bells. The library,
a beige-and-almond, low-flying, sharp-shouldered square that stands
as a quiet testimony across from
the only Catholic church in town – itself, a loud, grand thing
wearing buttresses for skirts, brown stones for skin, and
a collection of towers for a corset (he used to stand in its shadow
and imagine hunchbacks and gypsy princesses
hiding in its towers; he would cock his ear, and listen
for the fluty cries of an organ –
a gallant, wooden monster
that spoke in an ancient language of impossible harmony).
And floating past his nose

is the musky, wet perfume
of the nearby river. Awake. He now lucubrates
by one lone lamplight, spilling his mind
on the page in a willful act
of holy nocturnal emission. She calls
once again.

VI.

Fast forward. 2009.

Lady Evening waves to him
from outside the French doors, posing for him
in frozen time through transparent door glass
to show him her indigo and silver-sparkle gown. Behind her,
the river stares at him with midnight mirror eyes, calling him,
this lost coin on the carpet, beyond the roaring silence of conversations
launched and projected around him, beyond
these jet streams of words that were never meant for his ears, beyond
this buzzing of lonely
inside these country club walls – and
he hears her.

Pushing past the door, he breaks forth into the chilled air
and looks at the stars, hoping
that they will configure themselves into code,
arrange themselves into letters that will tell him to go back inside.

They don’t.

He pulls away from the door, which clicks softly behind him
as if it heard the unsaid shhhhh still echoing in his chest, unreleased
into the portal of darkness. No one noticed the evening
swallow his face, silence his name in indigo.

He walks across the grass, approaches the river
until he is near its warped, jagged shoulder – and sees
daylight break for a shotgun moment
upon the dark shadow of a young man – fifteen years old
and lost for words. The boy is standing upon the bank,
staring at the jeweled promises
painting themselves in watery skin. And now he, the man,

approaches to take the boy’s hand, to tell him that
there is an end to this:

beyond the river’s banks
that weep nothing but difference to him; beyond the
borders of this town that wanted to push him out of its belly
without a word of goodbye or warning; beyond this town
that wanted to leave him stranded
upon the dust of an open roadway; and beyond
childhood secrets and generations multiplied
in church pews that he never grew to touch. Their hands
touch, and he tells the boy with his eyes: beyond this
godforsaken place, there are rivers

that never cry coarsely
for your blood.
Please, come with me;
for there is love

outside
this town.

Written 9/14, 9/15, and 9/16/09
© 2009 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.

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About ravenswingpoetry

I am a 38 year old writer from Columbus, OH and the creator of Raven's Wing Poetry. I am a poet, seeker, fellow traveler, and autistic.
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9 Responses to Lost Man, River Town

  1. rallentanda says:

    I had this same feeling with Newman’s ‘Dream of Gerontius.’I never understood it either but I know it rattled me.

  2. anthonynorth says:

    An enigmatic epic here. It flowed beautifully.

  3. davidmoolten says:

    I like the use of the river image to act as an artery for the appropriately long and multi-part poem–meditative and quite spiritual. The river is perfect as a metaphor for time, which the poem also moves through, since time is always flowing and only in one direction.

  4. Linda says:

    I enjoyed my journey along the river that your poem created. The images are flowing and beautifully vivid. Thank you

  5. I enjoyed traveling along with both boy and man. The river becomes a character in itself, with its siren song trying to lure him. There are some very intriguing descriptions throughout. I loved the very first image of “a coin lost on the carpet”.

  6. I like the sweeping panorama of this poem — vivid images, strong voice-over, cinematic cuts of time, the reappearing motif of the river. Very ambitious.

  7. James says:

    “Find the River” is such a great song!

    I enjoyed reading this, but the second part really got me. The images you create are truly thrilling.

    Btw, I very much enjoyed reading your chapbooks.

  8. nathan says:

    Wow, this has such scope! Your images, especially your use of color and light, really make it hold together.

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