My daughter married last month. My son married this month last year. I saw the minute hand move. Click.
Watches. Alarms. Clocks. Turbines spinning water into power. You can’t follow me here, said the man with the hard hat, the flashing tail lights. But my father told me to follow him through the gate anyway. Just go. And so I did. I drove my father’s van through the opened No Trespassing gate, my mother protesting in the front passenger seat that the hard hat man wasn’t going to recognize my father, sitting in the back seat. You just can’t go where you want to go, Bill, she said.
And when the hard hat man in his large white pickup saw us in his mirror, he turned around to confront us. I know, I’ve always known, the hows and whens to stop. It’s going forward that keeps me still.
Hello, Bill, the man said. Through his opened window, through my father’s, wound-down. Of course they knew each other. At one time, my father was the boss of this power camp. At one time, I was the little girl, Bill’s middle child, running through the camp, climbing cliffs, keeping a measured distance from the waterfalls.
Can you break a spell by yielding to it? This river has always had her way with me. Running through me when what I wanted was distance from her roar. She must have had a good war, this Missouri river. What it has taken for her to still be here, carving through landscape of wheat and rising yeast. Red stone, brittle shale. Dams strapped against her swell.
The Montana Girl Speaks of Water
after Langston Hughes
My soul has grown deep like
the rivers. The curl of eddies and bays
pool inside. I retreat downriver, into the spray
of the Crooked Falls, climb rock
cliffs, toeing dirt, sliding down
banks into the graveyard
memories of the familiar wide
lazy shoreline of my youth, retracing steps
skipped out with the verve and the snap
little girls had back in the day, still
wading in shallow water, my cuffs rolled
and my muddy elbows,
dreaming all the world was one
cool, shin-high ripple.
(Previously published at Babel Fruit)
Tailrace: The part of a millrace or the like through which the spent water flows