HISTORY OF A RIVER
Kelly Moffet

She took off a layer at a time and didn't
stop with her lacy white bra, but then
went for a rib and removed it quite
easily like that game of surgery she
played as a child, using the tweezer
to pluck a bone. She had a steady hand,
always knew this, so she went a bit
deeper to the lung, and she knew
that she could still breathe with the
other one left intact, so she took that
out too, and then she went for anything
extraneous, like a kidney, the appendix.
She considered the womb. Did she
want it? Would she like small
arms about her neck? She couldn't
make up her mind, so her hand made
it for her, and the womb slipped out
as an empty balloon. Then an ovary
plum-shaped and a pink-purple all
the way through. She went to the
damp earth that formed a valley
just deep enough for what was left
of her, and she offered all she gathered,
and before you think this is an
origin story, know that before her
the rivers were plenty on the earth.
But here, in rural Pennsylvania,
there were only thin trees planted
from the logging companies that left
large clearings and crumpled earth.
Here, she had a father who was never
home and a mother who wailed
most hours that she had to calm
with cold washcloths. Here, she had
armies of boys ready to tease her
and she had a 45 of Janis Ian's "At
Seventeen" on repeat. Sadness piled
as dog shit in the backyard. Some
mornings she would wake to her
mother beheading snakes on the porch
or the squeals of sick kittens that
multiplied on the lawn. So what else
was there to do but make magic?
She sat in the dirt and chewed
every nail and spit each one out
then closed her eyes and prayed
as she was taught then dug her
finger into the earth the way
she feared any finger ever
digging into her and she watched
the water bubble up, swell, create
riverbeds, river currents, river
rocks, river creatures, become what
one poet called a great brown god
to house river dreams, and under it
she stayed, cross-legged, quiet, wet.




Kelly Moffett has three collections of poetry and one chapbook. Her poems have appeared in journals such as Colorado Review, Rattle, Laurel Review, and MidAmerican Review. She is an Associate Professor at Northern Kentucky University, and she was recently awarded a Fulbright Scholar Award to teach creative writing in Cluj-Napoca, Romania for the spring 2020 semester.



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