Along the River
We point out the different birds to one another.
Like teenage boys showing off their knowledge of astronomy.
Find goldfinches and cedar waxwings in the trees along the river,
tiny redpolls and grosbeaks chasing gnats down below.
In the water, cormorants lurk, wings spread like vultures
night-herons stalk lumbering carp in slow deliberation.
Mallards and geese eye our progress along the bank
hoping we have crackers or popcorn in our pockets.
The tiny boat floats down the river, bobbing inconsequential
in the pull of the tide. Its little paper sail flutters in the thin breeze
a piece of folded newspaper advertising newborn collie puppies for sale on one side
a half-sheet of recent obituaries on the other. I can almost see
my grandmother’s small, black-and-white photograph from the shore
where I stand, my tiny daughter’s warm hand in mine
watching our little boat as it’s swept away, perhaps
as far as the ocean. My daughter chatters excitedly
about the exotic places our boat might see, far-away places
my grandmother never got to visit, but talked of often.
I imagine it’s her on the boat, and not just her picture
a thin, pale woman, mouth set permanently in a thin, determined line
leaning over the railing of a real ship, eyes forever
fixed on the delights of the horizon.
I put the tiny boat
in the water and watch it
float away. Somewhere,
will pull it out of the water,
or as a sodden, soggy newspaper mess, find
a tiny plastic bag
full of ashes
a sprig of dead lavender
your photograph, our wedding rings
what it all means.