And now I take a tongue into your mud,
into your syringe and soda bottle banks,
to beg your braided silk, your Pennacook
ikwe, your sliding tar of snake, your mouth
of stones, your clavicle
of roil and moan,
your lover ghosts thrown from Pawtucket Falls,
your whitewater of bread and roses,
of locks and lifts, your leap from burning windows,
your fished-out crib of salmon and shiv, of shell
casings and shad, alewife and boosted tires,
of flywheel, of factory, your mill
girl offering, your doffers, your biddies, your boom
and your busted. Penitent palmed I stand
in this, your sun tussling dawn, to call a song.
My river, roll your blueblack big hips under
the oxidized iron of cantilever and cable,
deluge and slip bridge ribs and sing between
the redbrick and brackish heft of textile mills
turned art galleries with crack alleys.
bender of flashboard pins, come
sing to me,
sluice me, double back and seduce me to
your flood, tenor me down to your Irish blood
canals, your Greek restaurant ghettos,
fluorescent Cambodian groceries, chunk heeled
exposed to sell some rheumy history.
Bones old and broken of flesh, in sack and ash,
I call a song.
You ferried me home, now drink
and spit me out where city hall has crouched
inside downtown’s diverticula,
down to the fountain at JFK plaza where
my brother was suckered by a kid I wouldn’t
And there, just one of ten police stations,
Pollard library, and across Arcand Ave,
Lowell High, its field house named after
the columned Masonic temple,
the bring your own wine Viet Thai, and bars
and bars and bars, one for every St. Anne’s,
Immaculate, and St. Patrick’s.
hydraulic drop prayers are tossed like toasts
to tilted pints. There, here, my palms unfold.
Give willow to me against
my flooded nights, against my broken rites.
So you flow down and roll stones old river,
and moor me here for what I am and not.
Wake my song and pluck me to your pulse.
I’ll stay down in your valley,
drink your ink
of water and dream myself
back into you.
Make me small again, roll me in your lap,
your mud, your moon lit blood.
by the greasy vents of a train car diner, I beg
your lip of water
[This poem, and others inspired by and relating to the Merrimack and our region, can be found in Matt W. Miller’s latest collection, “Tender the River,” published by Texas A&M University Press. Please consider supporting local, independent bookstores if you wish to purchase a copy.]