Carol Muske-Dukes (2009)
It was the river that made them two—
The mills on one side,
The cathedral on the other.
We watched its swift currents:
If we stared long enough, maybe
It would stop cold and let us
Skate across to the other side.
It never froze in place—though
I once knew a kid, a wild funny
Girl who built a raft from branches
(Which promptly sank a few feet out
From the elbow bend off Dayton’s Bluff),
Who made it seem easy to believe.
We’d tried to break into Carver’s Cave,
Where bootleggers hid their hot stash
Years after the Dakota drew their snakes
And bears on the rock walls and canoed
Inside the caverns. We knew there were
Other openings in the cliffs, mirroring
Those same rock faces on the other shore—
And below them the caves, the subterranean
Pathways underlying the talk and commerce,
The big shot churches, undermining the false
Maidenliness of the convent school from which
My friend was eventually expelled for being
Too smart and standing up for her own smartness.
Too late, I salute you, Katy McNally. I think
That the river returned then to two-sidedness—
An overhung history of bottle-flash and hopelessness.
I see you still—laughing as the lashed sticks
Sank beneath you, laughing as you did
That morning when the river lifted
Its spring shoulders, shrugging off
The winter ice, that thin brittle mirage,
Making you believe
We were all in this together.