the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Kate Irving

Scenes From the Cell


That's when I cried so hard
I became the tears draining west
Down a slope ended
Not in the Hudson but the Pacific
Salt finding its way back

In Print

The world comes into focus over someone's shoulder
I sneak a look at this one beside me
Pretending to read the newspaper


A shrimp's exoskeleton resists removal
Although it is already dead and willing
I am neither yet compliant feeling inside out

Seduction of the Literal

Beyond the leap were too many artifacts
Weighting me to the bottom of the water
I once attempted to cross


I would realign my elements
Dive in
Be drawn up inside long stems
I've only this single shape
Hands arranging flowers


Occam's Razor

'the simplest explanation is usually correct'

We went for a ride that night on a lark,
("a helluva sleaze" we called it later) radio loud,
we belted out songs, made up new ones
at some of the numberless bars.
Our beautiful Carmen, in tight push-up lycra,
hooked a bucktoothed pike aching to be fleeced—
it was just a couple hundred and he had a good time.
The sky wore half a moon, the party wheeled.
We took turns driving and only by chance
didn't land in a ditch—much more than lucky.
We left the sleeping fish by the side of the road.
Whatever kept us on the steady reduced us
to the smallest worth, our absolute best.
Something to be sorry for? Only last call,
anything else got lost.
An episode that would never rerun, we wound up
conjugating irregular verbs until, one by one,
our voices grew quiet and the moon withdrew.
It was then we knew we were irresistible,
not knowing that was all we knew.


Crossing Over

Gauge the angle of curve and speed incorrectly,
the car's fender cuts you off.
Faces appear but you can't get up or hear
what the bearded man kneeling above you says.

His cigarette breath in your face recalls
another mouth closing in for a kiss—you laughed,
made excuses and, somehow, your way to the door.

My bags go wherever I go.
I'll be there in a jiff when you call,
with my best face on, my least worn shoes,
clean shirt and a shave—I'm ready.

This stupor feels way too good.
Open your eyes, it's the sky and two men
hover above you with an IV bag.
You're not watching a movie, this is you.
Something has broken, cracked
beyond a glass of bourbon and two days rest.

In the ER you tell the nurse for a fifth time
you heard a man yell, Hey, asshole, wake up!
Hard to say what direction it came from.



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