The Fourth River

Three Poems by Joseph Bathanti

By on May 29, 2017

To read our interview with Joseph Bathanti, click here.



After Sam Hamill’s Translation of Izumi Shikibu

Her long brown hair,
still a girl’s at that instant
of intake, a breath
she holds interminably –
because the black dog
gallops ecstatically
to her hand through
the winding creek bed,
a flopping speckled trout
in his mouth, the water
as he splashes going up
and up, excelsior,
balletic Sycamores
aswoon from their banks,
bark-shed, shameless –
and then that arrested
breath surrendered,
the lost last exhalation
of her girlhood. Barefoot,
she crosses the ancient plank
bridge spanning Linville Creek.
The give of the wood
at her tread echoes
through the gap.


The storm shakes
blood from the hemlocks,
then ceases
in paroxysms. Across
the shocked vale
shudders silence
in its wake. The sky
in a feat of grief
turns lavender
the gap. Behold:
the first haying’s golden
bales sprawl against
the mountain sole –
so bereft the drenched
crows weep.


April Snow

The grass whelp sin Biblical mien –
mowers spend themselves –

a writ of greenest green,
spangled in sunbursts,

as if Van Gogh lost himself
inthe remnant petrified thistle,

the first violets at his feet,
and painted Billings’ meadow.

Robins swagger the land with pomp.
Swifts, little crosses,

jet above them. Birdsong.
Frog-song. Early spring

by habit exaggerates itself
unconsciously like an exotic woman:

the green that is a blinding recognition.
To the ridge rise pines and firs.

Regally, in their time, bud ancient
hardwoods, swelling by the day

with their bringing forth.
Blackberry whip the swales,

its cane Shrove-purple from the long
winter. In Sugar Grove,

daffodils sway in the Little League outfield.
Bases bleach in the dirt.

Home plate is a pentagon.
It forgets nothing.

Life is more than fable,
but never stops stunning earth.

And so: hushed clouds, sheepish,
sheep-shaped, yet foretold,

slip over Snakeden Mountain.
Their shadows blanket the valley floor.

The snow they release is inevitable.
This is how we must think of it –

inevitable – how we must welcome it,
the white counterpane of silence,

beyond our ken, the green
beneath it jade, milky.