Mary Makofske: “A Town Without a River”


Mosaics glitter and the gold dome rises
but boats will never strive against the current
to bring strangers here. No gray surface pocked
with snow will drift past councilors debating
laws only humans frame. No flood will lap
foundations, leave its mark on statues raised
to commemorate the slain. A river town
may try to turn its back, or turn the waters
against their wont, or dam or lock or straighten,
but in the end it must give way, arch
over, build around, or tunnel under
a river’s flow it cannot fully contain.

No such constraints can shape a town
without a river. Its lights will never
shatter on ripples or float like dreams.
Where will lovers walk when they need
the beauty of change? Where will old men
go with their fishing rods bent with age?
Rain finds only roofs, streets, muddy drains.
Trees can never free their leaves to drown
in shimmering clouds. Birds will not leap
from bridges to skim reflection’s sheen.

Mary Makofske’s latest books are World Enough, and Time (Kelsay, 2017) and Traction (Ashland, 2011), winner of the Richard Snyder Prize. Her poems have appeared in American Journal of Poetry, The MacGuffin, Spillway, Southern Poetry Review, Bryant Literary Review, Stillwater Review, and Crosswinds, as well as in nineteen anthologies.

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