While Wandering the Blue Ridge, We Followed the River Acheron

Issue 4 | Summer 2020 |



             I am haunted by waters.
             -Norman Maclean


We were young and lost and the water
was white—cloud-bright as it splayed
over the river’s dark knuckles

and clear in the eddying pools
of its palms—and so we believed
the flow as fresh as a fawn’s first breath.

We filled ourselves with river, wetting
our chins and necks with the recklessness
of the thirsty and unbroken. What we took

was ours, and from that tasting we hiked
upstream and listened to the water’s
rush: the cold voices of our numberless

dead; though we could not understand
a single wet word, we learned—for the lost
—every river is the River Acheron.


Caught between the river’s blunt teeth—
as skinless and broken as an answerless question—

the dead doe did not rest; there is no rest
where water floods ribs and pushes like a cry

through a jawless mouth. We looked and knew then
what we had tasted: every flavor is touched by loss.

Water, too, will take and remember what it has taken.
When you drink, know this: every mouth is a window

open to the rain. Is not each body a house haunted
by memory? Is not each memory a ghost of water?


The long way back: the tender, trembling

sky opened like a wound—each clear drop

returning to Earth like our forgotten gods

remembered. What could we do but keep

to the trail and praise the rain on our skin?