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Different River, Different Rock

Different River, Different Rock

by Joey Brown

I step into water running southerly, easterly,
water that, were I not so stubborn, would carry me from home.
I walk against a current that turns me, turns me,
and I am half a mile from camp before I think of directions again.
I am here because I went on the road, on a tear,
the way I go for state lines and highways,
historical markers as if they mean something.
This time I drove with one arm out the window,
wind sharp enough to cut skin.

A black catfish walks the water with me.
His size suggests he is old, and the way he weaves ahead of me,
then drifts back to me when the basin makes my going slow,
shows his comfort with travelers in his river.
I stop to watch him, and he stops, too.
His whiskers sting my legs.
I imagine he lingers in thoughts of waywardness,
but really it is the warm stirring of the water he misses.
I reach down to touch his head.

Before my fingers break the surface, he is gone.
I come up with a wafer of black shale,
a hundred years of puréed sand pressed into its layers.
Two fathers and two sons unload gear and a yellow dog,
push their canoes into my stream of consciousness.
I finger the broken tip of the shale, its one rough edge,
and wonder how long I have stood thinking about all I do not hold.

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