David B. Prather


Water, this time,
right up to the front steps,
the stream knotting itself
into uncontrollable spasms.
This is the first time
it has ever come this far,

the water table arguing
its limits with pepper grass
and squaw weed, laughing
against the buckeye and the maple.
And it never seems to stop,
this rain coming down heavy

as sugar, melting
to brown, caramel twists
that disappear through the culvert
where one summer my sister found
the skull of a horse, the implosion
of those two, huge empty eye sockets

sifting runnels and trickles
of red clay mud. The salamander
that crawled the caverns
of bone where the brain had been.
The pebbles panned into a new medulla
like broken chips of thought.

We were afraid to cross under
that dark bridge, the bones,
the spider webs, the sickly weeds
that grappled through the stones
toward thin summer rods of light.
The first tunnel of our lives.

And then crossing
the neighbor’s ten acres of yard
to get to the green swill
of the swimming hole where we learned
to dive, learned to use our hands
to keep us from death,

placing them side by side
in one flat plank before our bodies.
Then the rumble of liquid in our ears
and the reaching, the turning
for the surface as though
we were being born again and again.

All around, the air is muggy
with cloud sweat. Unnamable finches
jump at the closed pods of dandelion
seedheads, and twitch the rain
off their mottled backs. This morning the sky
purples with electricity. Later,

we will hear the flash flood stories
of picture frames and mattresses,
everything covered in a silt so fine
that it gets into the skin of things.
A cloud so dark
We should have seen it coming.

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