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.

Related Poems

Gold River

The arch in the bridge. The moment of architecture. 
The island where you lost your mother's keys. The photo she sent
of someone who looks like her walking to the point 
where the land becomes reminiscent of dissolving of flesh. 
The trees stamped onto our minds like traumas 
are supposed to be. The frightening blanks where the stores were. 
The sense the owners died. How many people killed by logs, 
do you think, over the years? The moon sitting greedily 
on your house. The carrying of one another 
when young, light, and poisoned. The doorsteps 
we were left on. The fox scat. The extra points in school. Who knew 
how prominently quarries featured? Only once or twice in a lifetime 
does one find the suicide or hear the primordial screaming. The towns nearby 	
that survive on museums of their earlier burning. The dreams set
in neighbor's houses. The mounds with hooves and bones sticking out. 
The gentle sloping. We will always be swimmers 
digging into the thaw. The former newness. The various cuts of meat. 
The places cats won't go. The climbing out onto the banks. The naked man 
working harmlessly in the woods. Like a milkweed or fox 
you are something that parted the dirt here. The rotting
that sets in when you leave.