Tributaries: “What Remains”

By Nicole Robinson

Near the edge of Lake Erie a common tern skims the shoreline
for small fish. Behind me the marsh is golden brown
with only buds of green. Migrating warblers flutter their wings
with urgency. I sing a church song my foster father taught me:
“Mountains bow down and seas will roar at the sound
of your name.” If the waves are mountains they burst
when they bow to shore. The water is dark blue,
blue like the hallway outside the sanctuary
of the church where my foster father pulled me to his chest
and I played a game of reaching around the width of his body,
tried to stretch my right hand to reach the left.
The hair of his goatee scuffed the side of my neck and he whispered
something. But I only remember the speakers crackling
the sermon and how he grew hard between us.
Today I want to find a sand creature, to learn how to burrow
but I keep noticing the distance between me and the place
where water meets sky, the flocks of birds that decide
this is the day to leave the marsh and fly. I list what I see and know:
Lake Erie, song sparrow, pine siskin, that church song he taught me,
the way a whisper fades across decades. I cling to a stone
before skipping it, watch it bounce across water and sink.

Nicole Robinson is the author of a chapbook of poems, The Slop of Giving in, The Melt of Letting Go (2008, p2b press). Her recent poems have appeared in Artful Dodge, Great River Review, The Louisville Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Tahoma Literary Review, and elsewhere. She was awarded an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award for her poetry in 2016. Robinson is the former assistant director of the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University where she also taught. Currently, she is a writer in residence at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio.