Mother waits for them to find me in the water.
I had to turn away from her to keep the light.
I trim the wick, fill the reservoir. The only place water
can’t wash off dirt.
My men don’t need sound from me but a line they can course
through the dark.
I watch the lantern for willow bugs, living long enough to
drop into flame.
The glass smokes, then dulls. Always for the first time,
flood for weeks, washing out all the light.
When Mother took to sick, she said it again: Got to be sure
on your feet.
Light rests over seventy feet up. I hung the government
lantern up in a tree
near where the light had been before the rains.
I watch for Father. But he has rowed on.
His oar, another arm out of reach. Like many a keeper
moored below the cliffs,
his boat was turned over like a shovel on the river bank.
I walked before I crawled. A light is supposed to stay in
He said, Don’t step on nothing pretending to be solid.
Just like everything else that feels good, the riverside is
not a plaything.
The cliff’s dirt, then mud in my mouth. A slight sound left
Always for the first time, nothing to grab, moving like a
Heather Dobbins’s poems and reviews have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Big Muddy, CutBank, The Rumpus, The Southern Poetry Anthology (Tennessee), and TriQuarterly Review, among others. Her debut, In the Low Houses, is forthcoming in March from Kelsay Press.