After Jen Bervin / After Quan Barry

River spidering across the wall, sailing 
through the air. River flashing with silver 
sequins fastened to sunbeams. River always 
in pieces, a torn ribbon streaming everywhere.
River carving out a canyon through the years, 
seen from a sudden grassy overlook, 
an old bridge, a new shoreline, endlessly
crossing and recrossing our lives. River 
this winter with sixteen eagles alert 
and searching. River unfrozen and pooling 
around the ankles of trees in springtime, 
daring us closer. River asleep inside 
the black night like a spent lover, 
dreaming of being a chandelier of rain, 
first velvet wet drops on bare skin. Go, 
go on. Conveyor belt of clouds, destroyer 
and preserver of towns, longest breath 
of the earth, tell us what floating means 
to you. Some trees are weeping, river. 
Speak of all you carry and carry off
in river song and river silence. Be horse, 
be ferry, carry us from now to next to. 
River, I’m done with fading shadows. 
Give me daylight broken and scattered
across your fluid transparent face, 
come meet me with the moon and the stars 
running and tumbling along your sides. 
River swinging open like a gate to the sea,
time’s no calendar of months, you say,
but water in the aftermath of light.  
Your drifting cargo tells us everything 
arrives from far away and long ago 
and ends in the body, boat of heartache 
and ecstasy we pilot, in quest of passage also. 
River we call Mississippi or Mekong, 
sing us forth to nowhere but here, 
with your perfect memory be our flood.

Copyright © 2019 by Hai-Dang Phan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 3, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Diagonal paths quadrisect a square acre
white as the page in February.

From the soil of this basic geometry
ash, elm, and maple flourish like understandings
whose bare logics are visible,
understandings the theorem has allowed.

Between roam bodies of the sensible world:
people, dogs, all those lovers
of the material and immaterial

illumined, as under working hypotheses,
by sodium bulbs whose costly inefficiencies
Los Angeles and Philadelphia have apparently
moved on from.

The trees are grand hotels closed for the season.
But belowground, social life is taking place.

As when snow lay on the fields
and people descended to rec rooms, secret bars
like the Snake Pit in the basement of the curling rink
in Golden Prairie. Our big Ford nosing the siding,

we waited for our parents with the engine running,
under grave instruction

as radio sent our autonomy bounding toward us,
chilling scenarios inspired by the trucking forecast
and news items from Great Falls or Bismarck
freely imagined, songs that gave us bad ideas
and the seeds of a mythology. Ten minutes,

then one hour, two,
pop and chips and the gift of the periphery.

I've never understood what “starlit” means.

Even on a clear night in their millions
they cast no discernible light
into the dark expanse where a farmhouse gestured weakly

and grid roads and bullshit caragana disappeared,
where the animals’ lives played out,
smells travelling slowly, low to the ground.

In Riverdale Park the diagonal walks like diagrams
may be said to describe themselves,
which is a relief.

Now snow is blowing through the theorem
that the understandings broadly accommodate
and sensible bodies adjust their collars to,

and even bare spots left by departed cars evidence
how the outlines of loss might gradually alter

as experience is filled in by its representation,
even if not made peace with.

Copyright © 2019 by Karen Solie. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 27, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.