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Hai-Dang Phan

Hai-Dang Phan is the author of Reenactments: Poems and Translations (Sarabande Books, 2018). He teaches at Grinnell College and lives in Iowa City, Iowa. 

By This Poet

1

River to River

          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.