Cleanse

Walk the edge of the slim river,
over tiny clacks of tumbled stones, 

the cool bristlegrass with its slanted lettering
and slight leaves like the sway that squints the eye. 

Walk the edge, place each stone in your mouth,
suck it as if you’re cooling a felled star.
Let the stone cosy your cupping tongue. 

The granular-white river bottom, even and iridescent,
where the trout float above their zeppelin shadows. 

The slick cobblebank is scoured by years of topple.
Under and past the rocks is the future of trees
and the cindered bones of heretics. 

The grasshopper makes a run between rocks.
The fish sees the ticked circles of water
and slips the hopper down its throat. 

The eel steers through the water,
copying the river’s meander. Each rock
and its’ streamlined modernism.

The moon coughed up its first drop of blood.
I think a lot about how things might turn out. 

Once a woman swam here, the baby trout
found her opening and swam inside,
their tiny fins a shudder so gentle. 

The river sleeps with the soft-stepping people at its bank.
The mosquitos are humming their asterix shadows
over the rocks. 

All religions began in the desert and craved a river.
The rustle of a gurgling stream over smooth, epoch stones. 

Every day is the same. The stone remembers nothing.
You can’t hear the fish laughing. The old trees moan
like a boat. We might survive this. 

A trout taps the surface with the half pyramid
of its tail. Everyone makes love tonight.
All the women and men flash red tonight. 

A clump of stems float past, as if the hands have fallen
off the clocks. Purge something of yourself every day. 

Lean down and cup water into your mouth,
but know that anyone watching from behind
will mistake this for prayer.

Taking a stone to my mouth, suck it, turn
and turn stone under your soft palate.

Breathe slow through the nose. I’d be tempted
to swallow and drop a paperweight onto my food.

The why of being born— why a whale beaches
like an elongated slick black stone
and what gives the rocks their plunk into water.

The fish are awake, they are the colour
of old spoons. My feet roll on clompy ground.

The stone in my mouth seems to soften
like a peeled and whole boiled egg.

A life to clean your body of river,
the rest in countermand
with the aftertaste of pebblewater.

Andrew Slattery

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