By Kelly Rowe
Featured Art: Mimic by Dylan Petrea
When you were small,
we lived in a tropical state,
and you spoke fluently
a language only two could understand.
It had one word
for bean or ball or m&m or kiss,
three for water, six for dream
or any other risk.
When we talked, the dog danced on hind legs,
and the house sailed down the river,
waving its red and white flags.
The rain took you wading under the live oaks
and mispronounced your name,
but showered you with opals,
while high in the branches invisible birds
whistled back and forth in code.
Now, you live somewhere else,
I’ve gone a little deaf.
I press the phone to my ear
as your voice cuts out, fades,
and like the last speaker
of a lost language, I grope
for one of the hundred names for river,
or the single shouted syllable: Ma!
Meaning flash flood, meaning ark,
meaning the one we need
no words for, the one who flies to us
when we cry out in the dark.
Kelly Rowe‘s full-length collection, Rise Above the River, recently won the 2021 Able Muse Book Award and will be published in 2022. She is the author of two chapbooks, Child Bed Fever, forthcoming from Seven Kitchens Press, and Flying South on the Back of a Dove, published by the Texas Review Press in January, 2019. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona and works as a volunteer attorney, representing undocumented women.
Originally appeared in NOR 29