Douglas Nordfors: “A Mennonite Girl Wearing the Latest Life Jacket”


Held up by a canoe held up by the river,
she gently slices through my line of sight.
I only see, in addition to the jacket
covering nearly all of the top half
of a plain dress, a lace cap that might
have been made millions of years ago,
when the other side of the river might have
met itself halfway.

That’s enough imagination for now.
Modern life is what the jacket stands for.
Not too long ago, I think, people
had to be able to swim, whereas
now modern death is racing past—no,
I don’t know where this is going.
I just want to say that from where I stand,
the river doesn’t look diseased.

It looks like water
paddling toward new innovations, like new
motor skills that bodies need in order
to put on life, and to wear death down.
What was I thinking before the gentle slice,
before whatever this is began to start up?
I think I was thinking that imagination
has covered my head for too long—or
for so long that I can’t live without it.

Douglas Nordfors has published poems in such journals as Iowa Review, Quarterly West, Poetry Northwest, Poet Lore, Burnside Review, Louisville Review, Poetry South, Chariton Review, The Hollins Critic, Potomac Review, California Quarterly, 2River, Broad River Review, and others. His three books of poetry are Auras (2008), The Fate Motif (2013), and Half-Dreaming (2020), all published by Plain View Press.

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