12:4: “River”, by Kelly Rose Pfug-Back

12:4: “River”, by Kelly Rose Pfug-Back

When you left
it rained for weeks in the town where I live
the bodies of fish writhing, everywhere on the pavement.

I knelt and held them in my hands as they gasped and drowned
houses, treetops, the sun behind its milky cataract
inverted in the serene black domes of their eyes.

We slept below the surface like sunken islands, in my dreams
and the shadows of oars dipped over our bodies

urchin spines fanning from the soft places behind my ears

your hair a moonless forest
alive with the movements of crenellated fins.

My ancestors were sea serpents, I told you once
and guided your hands to the frilled crests of bone
that still ridge my skull at the temples

coiled turrets of chain link fence,
the lichened beetle shells of cars

rising all around us
in the columned light.

Past the scrapyard behind my house
the river bloats with oil-sheened suds

shallows thick with frog spawn
mosquito larvae flinching
in the dark concavity of upended tractor tires.

On its rust-stained banks I pull my knees to my chest
watching the silhouettes of cranes and excavators
arch their brontosaurus necks

red sun sinking below the skyline’s jagged teeth
as I wait for next summer’s drought

and all that stands to be revealed
by time’s receding tide.


Kelly Rose Pflug-Back is an author, social activist, and student based out of Toronto, ON. Her poetry, fiction, and journalism have appeared in publications such as Goblin Fruit, Mythic Delirium, This Magazine, Counterpunch, Canadian Woman Studies, and many others. Her first book of poems, These Burning Streets, was published in 2012 with Combustion Books. She is a contributing editor with Iconoclast Media and Fifth Estate Magazine, America’s longest-running journal of anti-authoritarian politics. Updates on her various readings and speaking events can be found at www.kellypflugback.wordpress.com. She says:

I wrote this poem while thinking of the ways in which we can learn to embrace loss and loneliness, and view these things as potentially cleansing and rejuvinating rather than wholly negative. A lot of the imagery I used relates to water and submersion; in some ways I associate these images with illusion, submission, and loss of control (being “swept away”): all of which we experience if we allow ourselves to become lost in or overwhelmed by things which are external to ourselves.  


Photograph of Tidepool in Porto Covo, west coast of Portugal, by Joaquim Alves Gaspar, is provided under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.



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