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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Wedding of the Waters; North River, Hudson Beach

By: Ryan Harper

Wedding of the Waters

Be on my side

before the water reddens—

butte-print intaglio,

earth diving and a hoarse wind

dodging through the canyon:

these are complex faults

at the gates of the hot city:

the runoff, Shoshoni northward

plaiting, the waters of life dual.

We are not the first

as such—we remember

the prints compiled,

overlaid in the bottoms,

in the gypsum bed,

trace their perilous paths:

Arapaho without relief,

latter-day formation,

benthic faith ending

in sight, taking new life—

two spirits in the exposed

land of the given names.

I’ll be on your side

in this the unknown country

when the depression turns void,

turns womb—out of the murder

landed, fluttering, scattering

black under the rainbow

stock of the reservoir—

there will be the American

Arnon, incising through the tells

of Beulah, where the gridded

western states are not

but seem the nation settled;

there will be two waters,

destroying symmetries,

depressed and wedded,

holding the ink.

North River, Hudson Beach

Some heavenly power guide us out of this fearful country!

Small craft advisory,

issued in white caps,

typically relevant

to the sounds and bays,

but this day the vessels

upriver contend

too with chop and cut flow.

Look west, Manhattan:

New Jersey crests, collects

condos and worn docks:

tidal wave in still life,

suspended, denied

even grim fulfillment.

Easy to believe

riverside—the last heave

of suburbs, nation

lurching eastward—our trash

is sourced on edges—

the continent’s hedges

tholed up in final

thickets and snarled assets,

frozen. Look again,

across the lifting ground:

fragile colony,

a shallow corridor

of shells, conventions

of finished men, monstrous

shapes plaque the greater

subtleties of the isle.

Easy to believe

a little craft only

need breach that sick swell,

a good pilot could punch

the billow to clean

country, long becoming:

tacking through the Palisades,

land as true as waking

in the real place; or

press the wave from below,

surface, Lazarus,

to the world-wide welcome.

Easy to believe

in good pilots, good routes:

Washington, Lincoln:

these are the conduits

we take when we think

of our true country, east

or west: stuff of dreams,

beyond the last white caps,

a sea-change—it seems

this generation might

believe harder things.

Still we want sharp notice:

be advised, who would

travel in a small craft:

only the best could

steer your vessel today;

only they would not.


Ryan Harper is a Visiting Assistant Professor in Colby College’s Department of Religious Studies. He is the author of The Gaithers and Southern Gospel: Homecoming in the Twenty First Century (University Press of Mississippi, 2017) and My Beloved Had a Vineyard, winner of the 2017 Prize Americana in poetry (Poetry Press of Press Americana, 2018). Some of his recent poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Tahoma Literary Review, Wild Roof Journal, River Heron Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, LETTERS, Cimarron Review, and elsewhere.

Wedding of the Waters

The literal “Wedding of the Waters” occurs near Thermopolis, Wyoming. What goes as the Wind River suddenly goes as the Bighorn River (or the reverse, depending on one’s direction). There is no fork, no converging or diverging channels—just a title change for the singular waterway, the monikers and the point of conversion agreed upon by…who knows? This poem is my reflection on real and imagined American confluences, and the power of naming as a way of mythologizing, erasing, improvising unity and difference.

North River, Hudson Beach

Manhattan island, where the river becomes the ocean (or the reverse), the island itself a many-masted ship, headed either upriver or out to sea, depending on where one locates the stern. Ever since I moved there, I have wrestled with whether it, like poetry, is a gateway into my country or a point of departure from it.


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