The Slow Moon page image

Say This

By Elizabeth Cox
The Southern Review, 2007

Say that a river flooded the house.
Say water rose up to ruin all that was owned.
Say that the water covered the whole town for a time,
sweeping toys and hats, photos, skillets,

hammers into a place downriver.
Then, without warning, the water recedes
and that town is left exposed to the wind.
Same town - soaked, recognizable.

People become daily forms bending down
to search for pieces of what they had owned,
bowls floating in a tree. How terrible the damage:
snakes in kitchen cabinets or turtles on a chair,

cows floating toward some bridge, caught, strangled.
After this day, everyone knows something old about life,
one intimate, or devastating, fact.
So what is important now?

All that came before this day is mocked;
but behind the eyes of the town
a new image forms, a thousand fragments rise
up from the flood into one whole piece.

What is dreaming, after all -
but the ebb and flow of something that comes
to wash away all we have, so that we can
make way for any unthought-of possibility.

The task, then, is to define that new piece,
to know its weight and structure, its edge
above the water, the new shoreline
that wobbles according to the water's lapping.