by Nick McRae
Dusk again in the railroad bed, and the pallid wood and steel
of what was once a bridge stretches toward the opposite bank
of the stream that courses through, stronger this time of year,
the heavy mountain rain upstream performing what in the winter
wood serves as a party trick, the colorless liquor sloshing
from one basin to the next but never spilling. By the ruins,
mounds of gravel, the refuse from years of building-up, slump
gradually into the streambed, eroded by opossum and briar-root.
Every autumn the pile creeps farther into the water’s path,
foundations laid for beaverdams, year after year, and each
winter I watch my father wade out into these waters, rending
branch and bramble and clay with each sling of his mattock,
churning a dull foam in the waist-deep shallows until the mass
of it bursts forth into the waiting channel, the now-darkened leaves
swirling, and sinking, and settling between pebble and river rock.