August 24th, 2013 by Deborah Kelly



A young man stands

in against a river

to bend its course against his body,

to bend its course against his courage.


He singly challenges a river

shaped by rooted landforms

and metamorphic knobs,

by cataracts of snow pack,

the sweat of muscular clouds.


Once and again,

he discovers the river licking trillium,

glinting under the Pleiades,

finds it drinking duff,

birthing creatures…

changing everything.


He uses the heat of words

to fortify his body,

to dam and redirect

a Tigres, a Nile, a Mississippi.

He insists, repetitious, on the shape he declares,

and grows too old.


When the river enters his bones

and marrow,

his skull sits, a nearly still bell

that vibrates near silence

with particulate movements.

He croons along,

he howls and hums,

letting it in, letting it out,

even letting stillness fill

the creases of exertion.


That is how he greets the ocean,

when he arrives,

with a river that feeds rogue waves

at it’s riffling delta.




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One Response to “Exertion”

  1. Julie says:


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