the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Ron Price

You Think You Know

A long day without luck
until the others switched to crappy.
I'm after that bass, Ricky Lee said with a smile.
A long day of beer and heat without lunch,

and now in their shack, making dinner
and drinking whiskey with branch water
while the Redbirds lose on the radio
and Bernstein goes on about his wife.

She brainwashed my son and my daughter.
Everyone knows she threw him out.
He'll spend summer as the previous spring
testifying about the woman. You think

you know, he says. The bitch
turned my son and daughter against me.
Well, he says, that's done now. And you —
he paused, his eyes a focused haze of whiskey —

you fuckwit warts, every one of you
married to failure. Fishermen. Go ahead, sneer.
You think you're going to escape
being crippled by the facts of your life?



Maybe she's talking, maybe laughing.

We sit on the back porch-steps
under the mimosa
beside the strawberry patch.

I can call back the timbre of her voice,
bees in clover, her thighs in shorts.

After weeding the bed
I helped my mother plant,
we fill a small bowl.

She is teaching her boy to weed and hull,
dipping each strawberry
she offers him
in cream.

Look at them, two innocents
in a world that eats innocence.

We sit on the back porch-steps —
The little backyard, the ample universe.


The Failure of Bodies to Adequately Burn

A man sits in his car
parked in what will remain a No Parking zone
for another forty-five minutes.
Two days rain ending,
already the sky a paler shade of gray.
A woman walks along the sidewalk toward his car
without expression. The man's life is
not in shambles from a broken marriage,
an affair gone bad,
no mean fool swaggers toward him
with a loaded gun and voices making his head reel.
Nothing exciting or tragic will transform this moment
into something else, a font of rainwater
blessing individual doom into a tangibly formed shape
of grace, a smile or a curse. For a moment
the man's and woman's stare
share the empty space between them,
and no fires ignite. Although a small breeze stirs
the leaves of the honey locusts lining both sides of the street,
the man notices only the noise of traffic,
a stranger's clothing, the dog sniffing a hydrant.



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