For John Prine (#51)

There’s a green river never far.

At the waking cusp of sleep,
Where around each bend
I find myself looking back
As often as forward—
The paddle dripping silver—
To catch a glimpse of precisely
What I’ll never see again.

The pink moon moves,
Pushed by black clouds.
There are no contrails tonight,
No geometry of sky,
Only the winking light of
Stars whose names would
Probably sound familiar.

Sopping black earth,
Drenched with certainty, and rain.
Cherry petals cling to my
Work boots, ghostly, floating
With the praise of spring.
I carry good luck as I go,
Or as I don’t—the same.

When, at sixteen, I first learned
The Shenandoah had another
Name—daughter of the stars
I fell in love straightaway
With the world. Sweet apocrypha,
Leading to the waterfall’s edge.
Does it matter that part of me wants

To plunge, too, to perhaps see
What can never be seen?
Morning, with dew sparkling
Bright! Tender trembling of April
Leaves! The world is quieter—
Not quite quiet. Five miles away,
The river glints, green now gold,

Changed with a wave of the hand.

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