Abby Wheeler

I have laid eyes on my Ohio nearly every day.
Have seen what it carries, how fast and how high.
Watched the fog burn off in the morning sun and birds
dive for its bugs in still-hot evenings.

I have paddled that river, slept beside it,
cut my feet on its clam shells. Have been diverted by it.
I have sat on a blanket in a crowd and hoped
the fireworks skating on its surface would not end.

Are you from here? My oncologist asks.
The river valley?

Goes on to explain the pulmonary nodules
are common to us born breathing
the musty river air. I'm not surprised,
the way it sinks into dips. How we all have wet basements
that flood when it rains and dehumidifiers to keep old furniture
from rotting. Why not settle into my dark spaces,
seep into unclaimed moments, like grief?

We'll just need to keep an eye on them.
Make sure they don't grow any bigger.

When we were kids and Mom was busy,
Dad would pick up fried chicken
and take us to the river for dinner.
It's been nine months now and we haven't scattered his ashes.
When I close my eyes to talk to him, all I see
is black water. When I close my eyes to talk to God,
I see my father's face. He must know somethin'
but don't say nothin'
, he'd sing.

I try to believe the river lives in the body, steady as a heartbeat
rambling or raging. That we're pinned into place
like a dot on a map. A spot on a scan. A speck of ash.

Abby Wheeler lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she is an active community and staff member at Women Writing for (a) Change. Her chapbook, In the Roots, is forthcoming through Finishing Line Press.

Follow @webbywheeler on Twitter and Instagram.

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