The country in ruins, rivers and mountains continue.
— Tu Fu
I sit on 1500 years snagged
by its collective weight, by the downward pull
of this valley, and the simple force of water
when it meets snowmelt and rain.
How long these logs will stay is anyone’s guess.
Stoneflies have hatched in this place of rest,
time-tempered, bent and slowed by the sound
of creek bumping against pushed up gravel:
a change of structure bending,
the plummeting of water slackened, guided
and gilded by slivers of light etched
with hemlock needles and fir boughs,
with a shadow-show of alder cones reformed
into a pool of the coldest clarity.
If you pick up part of this river,
turn over a stone, you’ll find it’s connected
to everything else—pupa caddis and cutthroat,
sculpin and rough-skinned newt. The very trees
whose crowns rise higher than I can see. Some
will come crashing in hundred-year floods;
others—after feeding pileateds and beetles—
will lie down to fashion failed dams
that change the course, current
diverted, carrying part of these mountains
on toward the cities of our ruins.
Todd Davis is a fellow in the Black Earth Institute andteaches environmental studies at Penn State University’s Altoona College. He is the author of five books of poems, most recently Winterkill and In the Kingdom of the Ditch, both published by Michigan State University Press. He also edited Fast Break to Line Break: Poets on the Art of Basketball (MSU Press, 2012) and Making Poems: Forty Poems with Commentary by the Poets (SUNY Press, 2010). His poems have won the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize, the Chautauqua Editors Prize, and the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Bronze Award, and have been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize. New poems are forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Gettysburg Review, Artful Dodge, Louisville Review, and Poet Lore.