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American Life in Poetry

Sun., Aug. 3, 2014

Here’s a poem by an Indiana poet, Shari Wagner, that has a delightful time describing the many sounds of running water.


It begins in a cow lane

with bees and white clover,

courses along corn, rushes

accelerando against rocks.

It rises to a teetering pitch

as I cross a shaky tree-bridge,

syncopates a riff

over the dissonance

of trash – derelict icebox

with a missing door,

mohair loveseat sinking

into thistle. It winds through green

adder’s mouth, faint as the bells

of Holsteins heading home.

Blue shadows lengthen,

but the undertow

of a harmony pulls me on

through raspy Joe-pye-weed

and staccato-barbed fence.

It hums in a culvert

beneath cars, then empties

into a river that flows oboe-deep

past Indian dance ground, waterwheel

and town, past the bleached

stones in the churchyard,

the darkening hill.

Poem copyright ©2010 by The Christian Century and reprinted by permission of the author and publisher. American Life in Poetry is supported by The Poetry Foundation and the English department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


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