Today, hiking along a river in another state,
I’m thinking of the dirt roads between Belle Fourche
and Spearfish, and how in early summer
when there is still enough rain, the prairie folds
itself like velvet into Spearfish Creek, the banks
like two hands cupping grain. And the railroad-tie bridge
the boys jumped from, and the abandoned white chapel
we must have broken into when we found
that cooler of Keystone Light. Not every river
reminds me of sex. But I’m remembering now,
naked one night under a sky of fireflies and stars, a hand
traced my stomach and I trembled. A touch
and a reaction. A creek, cold beer. My body
on a worn sheet and the whole sky flashing.
I walk out & it’s still not spring. I watch the blackbirds
over the lake & the lake is melting but it’s still not spring.
The ice is leathered islands. The soil sings the past.
This season is thick with thaw & wet brown mud—
the work of transformation. Like God, I suppose.
A runner passes in a red coat & I stop at the same bridge
I stopped yesterday & the day before that. It’s where I turn
around. If March were a poem, she’d be a crown of sonnets,
spinning forward & circling back. If God were a poem,
God would be the twelfth line. The breath before the answer.
If heaven were real we’d know it like the blackbirds
know it’s nearly time to nest. In our bones. Like God,
I’m waiting to swim. Like you, I keep walking toward
forgiveness, maybe tomorrow, the earth is softening.
CHELSEA B. DESAUTELS is the author of A Dangerous Place (Sarabande Books, 2021). Her work appears in The Adroit Journal, Copper Nickel, Gulf Coast, Massachusetts Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. A Tin House Scholar and winner of the 2020 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize from the Missouri Review, Chelsea earned her MFA from the University of Houston, where she was the recipient of the Inprint Paul Verlaine Prize in Poetry. Chelsea lives with her family in Minneapolis.