poem index

The Undertow

Sasha Steensen
I am shown
a generosity

so muddied
at the muddy bottom

of a question I forget to ask
until it's fished out

but bloated but 
in the manner of a net 

a web of causal connections
attached to its corners

gently moving over
the surface of the water

how come the road
couldn't have stayed followed

by way of hollowed out
logs & paddles

made of pawpaw wood
rather than by the crows 

alone to the moment
when the Monongahela

the Allegheny
the Ohio meet

I hate the underside
of an idea

but I like the underside
of grass that grows

underwater
and I've seen it from there

blossom 
as if the water had suddenly

stopped
and then surged forth

from there
I can see a shoal

of tadpoles
drowning themselves

I hate the idea
of the Ohio

as a magic carpet
into the heart

of the continent
a great gift

of geography
a gleaming highway 

carrying a tide
of settlement 

and expansion but
I despise

the idea of the three rivers
as my family tree

their canals
tributaries & branches

meeting 
& later the Mississippi

by its side 
for miles

until along comes my 
baby floating 

in a basket down
the Colorado

I despise all such 
undertows

and the fact that I've never
heard steamwhistles 

or boatmen's bugles 
I've never traveled

aboard The Messenger 
The Telegraph

The Gladiator 
The Ohio Belle

or The Great Republic
nor have I put my foot 

in the Ohio
anymore than you

and the Niagara
I abhor the Niagara

in winter the 
difficult beauty

of its frozen falls
and all they've 

come to represent.

Copyright © 2010 by Sasha Steensen. Used with permission of the author.

Sasha Steensen