by Eliza Dunn



On Sunday, we walk through the woods to the river—
my cousin Evie, just turned five, and the dog, yellow lab now stiff-jointed and slow.
Evie’s hand in mine, she hums, and I help lift her over stumps and loose stones.
Today, the river is wide-bodied but smooth, carving gently, patiently at its shores.
I choose a flat, sunny rock and pull my knees beneath my chin to watch as
the dog leaps in, paws first like a puppy, soft head shaking river water everywhere.
From the shore, Evie watches: the dog sinks her nose into river, blowing bubbles,
and brings up a rock between clamped jaws. Tail spinning wild circles,
she runs to riverbank to drop it there among the pine needles.
When I look back to Evie she is already wading, picking her way
along shifting bottom. She bends down, tongue out, and pulls a rock
from the river. I watch her wobble over, all grass-stained knees and bright
purple rain boots. She holds the rock out to me, slick and glistening.
It’s heavy, so she cradles it in two hands as she drops it onto shore
with the dog’s. She wipes her hands on her back pockets and wades back in.
I have been told we have the same eyes and turned-up nose and suddenly it is me
in the river, water streaming past my legs, another old dog splashing nearby.
How I want to tell her how precious this moment is, how light-soaked and fleeting.
But they are working quietly, the old dog and Evie, moving their rocks from water
to earth, and I let them. I watch their pile grow, picturing what would happen
if they kept going, kept reaching again and again into the current
until the riverbed was smooth, stripped of rocks. I can almost see it:
world turned inside out by their faithful work.
River bottomless and unfolded as the sky.



This poem first appeared in The Stonefence Review’s Spring 2022 issue.


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