And if the river is still whispering of the boy,
the mother dreams that the ribcage
of years constructs the raised bridge of willows
at the water’s edge. And since once a body
formed itself from liquid and loam,
there must be a spirit in the thin skin of snow
come winter, the layering of ice, the way years
build themselves one atop the next. The ghosts
dance into this shape she understands: black waters
moving out beneath a night sky, the milk
of stars spilling from a forgotten breast.
We see the old men from our windows,
fishing in the river. This must be the place
where sorrow goes, a penance of dark crows
flying out amid the trees. And soon it will be
winter, season of priestly winds, and the old
men will know the pilgrimage of hours.
Surely they dream of yellow grass in an open
field, grass like the beautiful uncut hair of the dead.
They suspect that the moon each night
is a solitary bird, its white feathers as still
as when the ship of earth is stalled.
And the moonlight on the river is a consolation,
a syringe filling the world with the coming cold.
It snows in the lungs, ice forming on the lips
with a strange opulence of forgetfulness,
the disappearing moon still exposing
its shoulder like a lullaby.
Doug Ramspeck is the author of four poetry books. His most recent collection, Original Bodies, was selected for the Michael Waters Poetry Prize for Southern Indiana Review Press. Two earlier books also received awards: Mechanical Fireflies (Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize), and Black Tupelo Country (John Ciardi Prize). Individual poems have appeared in journals that include Kenyon Review, Slate, Southern Review, and Georgia Review. He directs the Writing Center and teaches creative writing at The Ohio State University at Lima.