The River + Landscape as Interior

Supritha Rajan

The River

It remembers everything.

White tufts the cottonwoods shook free.
Leaves that papered its face with gold
and vermillion eyes and in their afterlife became
wine-red cargo the light
at every depth cycles through.
How a sky of barely moving clouds
each day made legible the history
of its evanescence. Impossible
to lie still with the future’s repeatable knowledge,
for such stillness not to be the condition of
its flight from shadow from sun-glare from
night after night in the panic of privacy
turning from one bank then the other to say
I know you’ll mock me for saying this,
but each day I reach rock bottom.

Impossible to speak and not sound like
something else—the night’s whistle midsummer
or the song a child sings to herself as she strings
purple butterflies. Its real voice resembling the force
of pleasure troubled neither by rocks nor reeds nor driftwood
but its recollection of them—the phantom
body its body here outraces, there in a flush
will release—what rowing across its back we name
current, meaning now a moment foreclosed
of promise, now a moment weighted with promise.
The tempo of regret a cool backwash
of moonlight and asters and marsh marigold eddying
in then out to the sea its muddied mouth refuses
to change into saying my bed armored with smooth stones,
my willow curtains, my shards of blue
—the recurring
landscape it knows itself by and so
will not leave. Impossible to contain
a body everywhere entered by light, mint-orange flesh
that daily drinks itself to remember itself
as the body that never once was its own.
Purple and porous, a small sea within the possible
sea, some part already tastes of salt, some part
(even in the rehearsal of not knowing) knows
it will soon be lost to the mouth through which
it enters and exits.

Landscape as Interior

Bird-space. Wingbeats
of October flight.

Autumn’s crisp perfume
barely descending.

There is a lake before me
too thick with algae

to mirror anything.
A vaporous tissue

veils the distance
while a worn music slides

off nature’s varnished instruments.
Slowly, in the slowed

rhythm of even regret, I step
into the mired surface.

Leaves shelve then
reshelve along the banks to form

tomorrow’s wrecked residual.
Under a layer of lily pads and molten leaves

I crouch and hug my knees
like a morose child, attuned

to a low-murmuring acoustic,
my hair flowing up

like blanket weed
as I observe through

squinted eyes
the progress of formless

flow. Mint-green

not only the color
of regret

but also the body’s light
deconstructed and

into further light

Supritha Rajan is presently an associate professor of English at the University of Rochester. Her poetry has been awarded Poetry Northwest’s Richard Hugo Prize and nominated for Pushcart Prizes. Her poems have been published, or are forthcoming, in such journals as New England Review, Gulf Coast, Literary Imagination, New American Writing, Bennington Review, Conjunctions (online), Washington Square Review, Colorado Review, Poetry Northwest, Antioch Review, and elsewhere.

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