Emerson Susquehanna (i. “When we have lost our God of tradition)

Not thaw brought to the river—
            thought, long winter a surface that holds
no current or image.
            And there’s language laid down like that, mind

locked in a long walk through the chill of a single word, and there’s cattails
            fraught where water’s not
any longer, and God’s a pall called down to mind the meaning
            given a life. Once thought

the word makes mind too small
            like Bible-colored Sundays all study and chalk and exotic
potted palms dotting a holy land
            entirely crayon and the lavender mimeographs leave

on the hands. The word God has always been my mother’s
            fingers separating
my sister’s hair, three strands gathered in a braid so tight white at the parted dark
            roots stood out, word

a migraine in its wake, word endured alone in a room. Shades
            drawn over pain, word’s
a mind’s light ingrown, caught, nitid knot snarled upon
            itself…Subzero, months

from thaw, we walk—o trees, trouble,
            tremble at the roots of being, underneath,
under laws, the order of things
            so deeply a violence and unnumbered like the snow.

From Sight Map (University of California Press, 2009) by Brian Teare. Copyright © 2009 by Brian Teare. Used with the permission of the author.