the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Rob Wright


Below our seats, the tires kicked stones
into the rusted floor. The jitney
rocked and pitched over washed-out
holes and ditches. The springs and wheels
creaked and clattered through the night
like a grand congress of crows.

And indeed, delegations of crows
came out to great us at every stone
village we passed that night,
walking in platoons up to the jitney,
oblivious to the moving wheels,
their flinty eyes looking out

into the headlights' beams. Tumbled-out
walls were pocked with droppings. "A crow's
dominion, I said as the wheels
scattered flocks with flying stones
and clouds of dust as the jitney
rolled though the equatorial night.

And all through that night
we climbed. The hollowed-out
eyes of locals waiting for the jitney
was my way to mark the hours. Crow-
black hair, the smell of cooking fires, the stone
expressions of children. The wheels

strained beneath their weight — wheels
bearing fifty seated, fifty standing. A night
no longer fit for sleep as each stone
sent tremors through the clapped-out
axles and greaseless bearings. The crow
call now at a constant pitch as the jitney

made the final assent. Another jitney's
driver passed, waving. His wheels
nearly touching ours on a crow's-
foot turn, the last chapter of the night's
history. In the east the stars faded out
as clouds in verdigris appeared behind the stone

summit. The jitney slowed. The cool of night lingered
as the wheels rolled to a stop. The travelers tumbled out
and stretched, descending to the land of crows and stones.



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