The Fourth River

Tributaries, The New Nature: “From this Sharp Place”

By on February 14, 2018

Selected by Ira Sukrungruang


By Alani Hicks-Bartlett


Despite our vantage point / from this sharp place, / there is such an expansive and gaping silence / to the left, / where the low, smooth valley / boasts the wide basin that leads to the lissome, metal-plated river / tracing its silvery course / across the rocks in pearls and tangled rivulets, / that you almost believed the momentary quietude / to be dreary.

There, / in the sudden dip after this ridge, / there are the lozenges of slender stones that begin to softly roll, / conjuring up the low clouds of dust / that thicken the air / as the slow, brown- backed, / hulking /beasts stumble formally / from the sloping talus of the cliff, / where, / languorous, they had gathered / during yesterday evening’s downburst—the one that blew about / loose slit / and angular particles of clay / with its grating and slicing gales.

Breaking through / the upward-swirling crown / of sand and dirt-hung air, / the low drums of wind begin to sound / as the field birds paper the sky / with their large, dark wings. Carrion- fattened, / the volts of stone-colored, sharp-shinned hawks, / and the gangs of bearded vultures / and all the other avivorous old world raptors / eye / the fleeting, star-bound objects / of their hunger.

Humming softly, / you hold the weighted brass bell / to your berry-stained, grass-striped chest / as the sun makes its creaking, hesitant descent; / humming softly, / you gingerly push aside the pink wild onions / and gauge the wind’s faint breath / to find your bearings; / humming softly, / you trip lightly / through the ironweed and tall prairie grasses / as the faithful hunting dogs / enter the field swiftly, / following your snaking, / scented trajectory / lake-ward, and then south.



Alani Rosa Hicks-Bartlett is a writer and translator who lives in the SF Bay Area. She holds a PhD in Literature and Gender Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She has won awards for her creative work, such as the Emily Chamberlain Cook Prize and The Dorothy Rosenberg Memorial Prize in Lyric Poetry, and her work is forthcoming or has appeared in Tweetlit, the Taj Mahal Review, Continuum, Renaissance, Illinois History, and Lucero. Her translation of sonnets of the Catalan author Mercè Rodoreda I Gurguí recently appeared in Mantis: A Journal of Poetry, Criticism, and Translation, and she is currently working on a novel set in Portugal.