They are gone.
The sky covers the river and me; a high, wide blue.
I am enfolded in water the color of pot liquor, a dark mirror,
the liquid in the middle of the eight ball.
Yesterday morning early a snake appeared
halfway across the cove and swam under the dock
holding his head high above the water, a moccasin.
I watched from the porch, smelling rain,
listening to the breathing in every room.
Now all the breath has gone out of the house.
They loaded up this morning early, filled their cars;
took their coolers, their damp towels, their faith in Jesus;
their resemblances, grievances, memories and attachments
—their blood and their breath—
and went back to where they live now.
But home is the water.
Some of them weren’t here this time.
Others won’t be the next time, I know.
Baby faces will sharpen, older faces shift.
Jawlines, waistlines, hands, necks
will strengthen or slacken with the seasons’ turns
until the time comes around again when I can face forward and say,
I am going to the river. Meet me there.
I rest in the lap of the water’s dark apron.
Reflections tickle the undersides of overhanging leaves.
They look like breathing gills in the shimmer.
High up in the sky the air has turned so the light hits the water at a different slant
and although it is August, it is September.
From up on the porch, I know my face shows clear,
and my shoulders, but my middle less so, and my feet are utterly lost in the dark.
Halfway across the cove a head emerges like an answer,
triangular with hooded eyes—inside his mouth is white as snow.
If he gets me, at least I will stay in the river.
I float on the blood of the lamb.
He lifts his head higher
as if noticing a peculiar piece of drift wood,
a thing lost on the waters.
Then he turns and makes for the red banks on the Georgia side
Leaving a wistful wake, as fine as a twisted fish bone.
When I swim away, we will all be gone,
and a summer will fall when there will be none of us here anymore, at all.
I remember, and know that storms will come with autumn
and thunder will vibrate these waters like heavy stones flung hard from the bank.
Lightning will knight the quilted hills all across these coves.
But I will miss those storms in the place where I live now,
miss the easy, elegant, brown, smoky winter,
and the lost scarves of dogwood tangled among the sweet branches of spring.
By then, the salt drops that dive spear-headed to the water,
will be washed away like sins on the river’s long, forgetful journey
to the Gulf.