Christian Knoeller

Rabia O’Loren

BREAKUP, DEER CREEK

 

What begins with the sharp

report of ice colliding

seems a train rumbling

 

if freights traversed

currents buoyed by a whole

watershed of snow.

 

No two slabs alike

this confluence of crystal

and winter driven

 

by a riven river

severing cottonwood

and redbud at the root.

 

Some chunks are wide

as tiny islands you

could ride as far

 

downstream as imagination

allows before dissolving,

a carpet magic

 

in its vanishing.  The sense

you’ve seen this all

before, long ago,

 

from windows of a home

emptied when the last

of a generation passed.

 

A tree you climbed

with abandon beside

the channel choked

 

with its own thaw,

memories themselves melting,

already, beneath our feet.

 

***

 

SHUZENJI

 

The body is the body of the Buddha.

Like ice and water, the one is always in the other. ~   Sam Hamill,  After Hakuin

 

Geologists account for this mountain

differently than locals

who brave the cold

 

bathing naked torsos

in healing springs at the heart

of town. They say where

 

a pilgrim struck stone

with his staff long ago

water still flows

 

steaming from magma deep

down, cooled in pools before

the most stoic can stand it.

 

In a bare room built on stilts

above the river we bed down

on taut tatami mats.

 

The stream keeps repeating

a mantra of water passing

like memory’s voice

 

beneath each dream.

Up the road an imperial ryokan

where ailing emperors stayed

still hosts Noh plays

intoning in ancient tremolo

some half remembered fall

 

from grace:  whatever wish brought us

to this remote place, hope

to be made whole or at least

 

as close to love as our bodies

come, to be woken

as ice fractures stone.

 

***

 

FLOODPLAIN

 

Who’s to say where outer

leaves off and inner

begins—landscape’s

oil on canvas

 

blood on bone

Van Gogh’s impassioned

rows of olive trees twisted

with emotion, signature

 

sleight of hand, O’Keefe’s

viscous gullies.  Hummingbirds

buzz the feeder’s ruby globe,

nectar laced with imitation

 

vanilla.  What’s natural?

The riddle gives way

to sweetness. Birds hover

on incessant wings,

 

the illusion of stillness

above a floodplain’s flux.

Meadows turn riverbed

when rising water topples

 

sycamores and litters pasture

with flotsam and seed.

Sand and sediment scatter

fragmentary as memory.

 

Japanese beetles

vanquish wild roses:

one savage wave

of glistening iridescence.

 

***

 

TOMORROW WILL HAVE AN ISLAND

            after William Stafford

 

Consider how the river thinks

about an island:  the moment

 

current becomes of two

minds, either side, eddies

 

of hesitation, then

a deepening resolve:

 

how the island regards

water that carves both

 

banks to explore another

course:  how water, once

 

divided, desires only

to find itself again.

 

Author Biography:

Christian Knoeller, Associate Professor of English at Purdue, has published poetry in literary journals regularly for several decades, with recent work appearing in the Evansville Review, Hawai’i Pacific, Iron Horse, South Dakota Review, and Westview. His first collection, Completing the Circle, was awarded the Millennium Prize by Buttonwood Press, and another, Learning to Tell Time, is in progress. He has taught writing, literature, and English Education at the college level for the past 20 years, including creative writing as well as a variety of graduate seminars, most recently Writing in Middle and Secondary School. He was awarded the Jill Barnum Midwestern Heritage Prize in 2007 and has recently been elected the Society’s president of Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A River Runs Through Us    Editor’s Note by Judith Roche     Lyn Coffin    Scott Ezell    Sharon Doubiago    Elizabeth Austen    Kathleen Flenniken    Christian Knoeller    Lyn Lifshin    David Berger    Laura Bowers Foreman    Sayantani Dasgupta    Sibyl James    Mary Swander    Wendy Noritake   Ann Spiers    Kathleen Sweeney    Brenda Peterson    Dick Bakken    Linda Rodriguez     Michael Schein    Carolyne Wright    Angel Latterell    Kristin Van Tassel    Annie Finch    Elizabeth Cunningham    Cait Johnson   Jack Hirschman    Paul Nelson

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