In the evenings, this lay-down river
splitting my land in two, a sliver in the skin

pushing back the rusty traces of hemlock
and sycamore, the knuckles of rock

in black silhouette, resting, mouths closed upstream,
their fingers wrapping around the chords of canoes

drawing them close as kin with the current
swallows falling like ballads, resurrected

again by this wind of rounded edges and a silver
brilliant smile, not to be trusted with this innocence

this flat prairie of a river, its blue the kind
of blue you feed young children

like berries, wild


White young teeth
hair of November grass
the soles of your feet
bushing the fallen chestnut
of this summer marsh
your music, your red shirt
tied against your waist, wasps singing
at your temples, arms circling
at the unevenness of your afternoon
growing evening, growing milky and bare.

Something will wait for you, what will wait—
the hawks searching the shallows for mistaken young,
their ellipses over stone paths, their dark weight
in the lowest branches.

This, child, is waking together, what it was:
the long stanzas of reeds,
the cottonwood trees, the honeysuckle breathing,
tomorrow’s autumn in the chalky banks—
what they taught of light seeping through treetops,
the stranded perfumes of mud, drying on fingertips.


The red moon, the fireflies in the oak,
your low fire that walks along the grass.
The cicadas in the heat-soft morning,
early even with bees at the hosta,
the horses, white-starred, bent,
moving at the tree line.
Your grown hands, flushed as they skip
along the hem of your skirt, as they trace
paper leaves and rustle the words
from their boundaries, I can see
the words enter your eyes, run like
the flooded fields, eddy and slow
along your walls, rush to seep
and swell with the hard tides
of your dark eyes.
Silent, you watch the dirt road
the small animals that pause to know
your stillness as threat or amity or
at the glossy windows framing your face
sun-reflecting, opaque.

Photo by VinothChandar.

E. R. Donnelly

E.R. Donnelly’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in several publications, including The Tulane Review and The Santa Ana River Review. Originally from the Chicago area, she now makes her home on the East Coast.