Poetry Mixtape 49: The River Speaks

One of the greatest pleasures of winter break is having time to read all of the poetry books and chapbooks that have been sitting in my “to-read” pile (not to mention all of the new books I received for Christmas gifts).  One of the wonderful gifts I received was a long-anticipated read – Carol Berg‘s Ophelia Unraveling from dancing girl press. (You can read other poems from the book here.)

This chapbook speaks alternately between Ophelia and the river which seduces her. One of my favorite poems in the chapbook is “The River Confesses.”

The River Confesses

And that’s why I sang my river song to her.

Why she heard the questions. I tell you


the dead leaves were not enough, floating

on my surface, the wind skimming above


me. That is not touch. There were no rainbow

trout freckling my currents. The rocks she so desired


were at first quite jagged. Small teeth gripping me.

Can you understand what it’s like constantly eating


a path through the grass? The clatter of dead reeds,

like chatter? My persistent mouth with so little


to feed on but twisted twigs. And so when she came

upon my unbuttoned riverbank and when I peeled


off my green shirt and when she dipped her

fingers inside of me what could I do but open


my book of dreams to her. She read herself

inside of me. And then I unwound myself inside of her.


Sigh. So lovely. I love the voice of the river as a lover who seduces Ophelia, as an entity who needs her. Persona poems are some of my favorite types of poems, and this one hits the mark in every respect – the voice is consistent, the music of the poem is soft and flowing to match its subject, and one can’t help but feel the river’s particular pain and longing.

If you want to write:

1. Choose a natural entity (tree, river, stone, etc.) and write its confession.


2. Choose a character from the canon and write about his/her relationship with a non-human entity.


8 thoughts on “Poetry Mixtape 49: The River Speaks

  1. Pingback: Friday Freeforall: And So We Begin… Again « Margo Roby: Wordgathering

  2. Confession of a Toadstool

    Had you known the ferment
    of puddle berries in etched stone,
    you too would climb pines,
    making your own steps as you go.
    What appears firm
    (the seat, the stool, the ottoman)
    lacks the persistence of woody-stemmed
    dukes and knights holding court
    in the purple bowery.

    As well the autumn cycle, we’re
    gleefully infesting a primped lawn with
    spongey monstrosities, my briefest
    bloom (don’t even dignify it as a bloom)
    anchors itself to loam and decay.

    The brackets, yes, brackish
    colonization on freshly dead soldiers
    of douglas fir or quaking aspen. We tie stiff bonnets,
    a flagrant starchiness, forming conks
    out of water and lies;
    our fritillary lace brims inventing shade
    not large enough for a wasp, a deer tick.

    My cousins, the puffballs,
    no stranger to misunderstanding,
    are often mistaken for out-of-water sea urchins,
    for pan dulce with its finely cracked sugar surface,
    for fossil dinosaur eggs in pockmarked calcium sheen.
    They envy the spermatophytes
    their engorgement, their distention.
    They’re apt to exhale smoke upon them,
    sprinkling the gaudy flower world
    with invisible clouds of fairy dust and
    vapor sex.

    Don’t be fooled by linguistic
    taxonomy: the ‘mushroom’ destined for the table
    and the ‘toadstool’ for the morgue.
    We’re devilish tricksy when it comes right down
    to the amanita and the armillaria.
    Mycophagists, we dare you to clamber
    to the stately ruin of the royal hall
    with a satchelful of lists and guides.
    You pour over us like texts in which you’ll read
    the confidence of your own inscriptions.

    I want to say
    it isn’t my fault.
    My ancient terrestrial will to endure
    through transience only accidentally
    riddled with poison.
    I want to say
    I’m sorry.

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