When the Boy Leaves the River
Bill Brown

When the Boy Leaves the River

After Maggie Smith

When the boy leaves the river,
+++ the shadow of the heron
drifts through sycamores,
+++ their leaves an October flutter
coppered by cedar rust.
+++ How they sail on the water
like clouds the boy carries
+++ on his shoulders—the drift
of uncertainty, of journey.

When the boy leaves the river,
+++ the current remembers his sight,
how he sat on a rock and followed
+++ it through shoals and jumbled
birch-stuffed eddies, his eyes
+++ in concert with the sound of it,
how the osprey's shrill cry
+++ celebrates its kill.

In the city, traffic and light,
+++ and oil reflection in street-rain,
horns and tire swish—
+++ and a broken song,
a woman's sorrowed voice
+++ from a car window
fading with the distance—
+++ almost like a river barge
calling night away in sleep—
+++ and this is how he returns—
dreamscape in which loneliness feels
+++ kinship and the river flows.

Bill Brown

is the author of ten poetry collections and a writing textbook. He has been the Tennessee Writers Alliance "Writer of the Year" and a National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts "Distinguished Teacher in the Arts." His most recent collection is Morning Window (2017, Iris Press).