the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night

Big City, Little



Big City, Lit
Nicholas Johnson


Brooklyn Bridge

  Photo:  George Kunze

It's more than a long, dark road.  You're in your car, with everything you need in the glove box, back seat, trunk.  You've got your smoke, there's the fog, and some rain, and more fog, and thoughts of searchlights.

Maybe there's someone beside you—or there will be—for who knows for how long.  A guy thing maybe: a city, a woman, warm coffee, more smokes.

Stations drift in and out in the sing-along tease 'til you've had enough of the night, the absolute black Van Gogh claimed didn't exist.  All the tricks, like in a Dylan song, play by the roadside shoulders.

It's what you want: not exactly lost, not exactly knowing where you are, but full of the importance of being elsewhere, speeding toward.

And so you drive on, grateful for the dashboard, steering wheel in your hands, strings of mileposts, tiny reflectors, what's left of the white lines, rarities the more traveled, rained on.

Smoke, fog, smudge of light on the horizon: The City, allegory-big.  You on the way, bridge-buzzed, highway-wired, everything within reach, toward the light, the place where "symbol is the thing itself."


Nicholas Johnson is co-founder and editor of the magazine. His new chapbook, Degrees of Freedom, is now available from Bright Hill Press.


Lori Desrosiers


My river, you run brimming
with barges tugboats, trout.
Flanked by Catskills and Palisades,
your source is Lake Tear of the Clouds,
Adirondack mountain stream.
Your Mohican name is Muh-he-kun-ne-tuk.

Trout breech into ever
widening circles. Heron and egret
wade in the shallows, eagerly fishing.
At sunset, bats rush from shoreline caves
catching mosquitoes in mid-air.

Ancient oak trees lean,
gesticulating toward the opposite bank,
their roots touching the shallows.
The shadows of great bridges,
George Washington, Tappan Zee,
ripple your waves on a windy day.


Robert Klein Engler

The Invitation

Men of God tell us the great pain of Hell
is the pain of separation. Sublunary lovers
know this already, or something like it
in the faint colors of everyday longing.

This morning the sun is quarterway towards
noon and pushes ahead a cerulean blue
sky with a hint of autumn in the air among
turning leaves. The color of longing is rust.

We hear when Jesus walked in Bethlehem
some had their longing cured. Others
dragged out Scripture to argue over words.
The color of longing is rust and blood.

Now, the field corn is stripped and ground.
Now, the water blushes into wine.
The saints take up their cross. It grows cold.
The colors are rust and blood and gold.