Wish I Had a River

I miss you the way I miss mooring docks and bright blue boats

and the fine frizzled fray of a slip knot; or a wooden bowl
worn smooth by the daily spoon and cloth,
all the ways we did and didn’t cotton.

It’s on the frozen Thames I sometimes dream you,
skating your way around apple carts, hand-presses,
coal-heaped sleds. Once I saw your beautiful bald head
as you handed your cap to an old woman, limping, fast, after her dog.

That day we flew over the Potomac, you said, here,
take this; and it wasn’t a matter of life or death
but the clamor of their conversation as I pulled
back or pushed forward on the yoke

like the honeysuckle branch you brought close to our faces
that night we climbed two fences to be alone. You said, here,
smell this; and when you let go,
I heard the sound loss makes—the way a thing going away slices

the air. Maybe it wasn’t a dog the old woman was chasing
but a fissure edged with ice;
and though she spent her whole life not knowing you,
she made, within her bony fist, your woolen cap her last soft thing.

-Annette Oxindine, Waccamaw

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