the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




David Graham

These Are the Days of Wrenching Our Backs

These are the days of wrenching our backs
sleeping on well-meant foldout couches
in a cousin's den, our dreams muddled

and full of strange dogs barking, a song
our grandmother used to sing once a year
at Thanksgiving, and the scent of alien kitchens.

These days we wake smelling diesel exhaust
and hearing the endless surf of an interstate.
Later maybe the creaking of chains

on a swing set, ravens in some shoreline hemlocks,
and the distinctive sound of someone's truck
spitting rocks and dirt down the road. These are

the days we study the new baby photos dutifully
or with a kind of suspended joy, we search
menus for dishes we recognize and prices

that won't choke us. These are the days
we half-listen to the docent's smooth lecture
about Degas's ballerinas, but all the while

it is some oddity truly swimming across our minds,
such as the shirtless geezer standing in a doorway
of a halfway house in Glens Falls, New York,

that time we got lost on our way to the museum
— he was smoking a cigarette, then smiled
with all his teeth and blew us a big kiss

as we waited for that ancient light to change.



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