the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night


Fall 2007



Jason Irwin

Morning With Caleb

St. Georges, Bermuda

We sit on the balcony, my little cousin and I—
cereal bowls and apple juice at our side—
happy as two dogs, watching ships sail
on a lizard green sea.
Birds chirp in a nearby cedar.
Down the street a woman beats
her laundry.
I marvel at my cousin: three years old
and wide eyed, his hair a bramble
of black curls.
He laughs as he shoves a wad
of raspberry bubble gum in his mouth,
then revs a toy truck over my foot and asks why?
Why is the sky blue?
Why can’t you stay here forever?
Why? Why don’t the stars shine in the daytime?

I look at him and wonder
how can I explain that one day
he will forget this moment, that he’ll grow
and become a man, fall
in love with a woman someday,
who is destined to break his heart,
that I will no longer be his best friend.
How can I explain
that the sky only looks blue,
that nothing in this life is forever, not
the quiet mornings after breakfast,
watching ships on the horizon,
nor the flavor of bubble gum,
that even in the brightest sun
night is lurking?

Dream of Walking With Van Gogh

You stopped to tie your shoe,
mumbled something about the sanctity of yellow,
the foreboding of cobalt
and the sweetness of a prostitute
named Rachel.
I remarked how your beard
looked like a ball of fire.
Toward sunset we climbed a hill.
Amid the lowly and despised
I watched you unload your easel and box of paints,
watched you dip your brush
into the open sores of a leper
and paint a magnificent scene.
Hours later when everyone had gone,
except a few cripples,
who the preacher refused to heal—
for their love of worldly things—
you set your brush down, and wiping your brow
turned to me and exclaimed,
It is finished.
And in that instant I knew
you meant the world.


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