“Below the Falls”

Listen to Kevin Barents read this poem.

Root-barbels high on the soaked trunks grope
what bits of water drilled into the air.
We move together through the woods: a two.

Greedy hemlocks crowded in the draw
eclipse a hophornbeam. We’ve picked along
a path held from the hollow’s laurel hells

to where a trickle pushes off the cliff
and grabbles down into a greenstone bowl
the drop has pestled through the same old years.

The lottery’s been slow in spelling us.
We can’t get by on our inheritance,
an heirloom made of an exhausted place.


Roots of blighted chestnut trees miscarry
doomed shoots over and over. We’ve hiked
above the senseless mewling of the traffic.

Thick, kindred brambles lolling in their clade
leech off the filtered sun, a sinecure,
their clustered fruits fat as neglected udders.


It’s only as the smacking of the leaves
gets louder that we notice we’re deluged;
the spit had hid a breaking-in of rain.

Our people are as far as they can be.
The stream swells up with rain. The falls engorge;
its cataracts erupt and issue mud.

New currents lift a shingle from the bed
and runty-legged newt, concocted here,
abandons its appendages and swims.

What do we do? Protect an heirless joy
or fold our suffering into this place?
The limpid races aren’t potable.

Rusty thrushes drop a stranger’s line.
Huddle with me in our leave a while
before we hurry back to our fatigues.