Detail of "Ichnographs from the Sandstone of Connecticut River," by James Deane, 1861. From the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Grooving a valley with soft-scissoring fingers,
a blind river surveys the land for a kinder ocean.

It carries the wishes of fishermen on ridges
waiting for carp to leap into their arms like a woman.

Lean sunbathers are unbothered by death.
It will come sooner than they expected.

Stories of trilobites and volcanic heat,
birth-engine for endless microscopic species.

It moves like blood cells into impressionable soil,
tumbles over rocks, a religion truer than any.

It flows by churches, by graveyards—
musical-fingered tailors, women who buried children.

Ten-volume histories of cities rise in waves:
Tiber, Seine, Nile, Danube, Yamuna.

What are Buddhist temples without wildflower flags
fluttering over streams that lift in high-water prayer?

It turns by a synagogue where a war-jagged rabbi
bent over his books puzzles out what it all means.

My alphabet is weeping, he sobs.
These words don’t hold their shape.

He climbs into the waves of fresh-cut corpses
the blind river grinds to gravel.

The river, sullen and implacable,
twists to a rhythm it alone hears,

Folk tunes in its ears and choral ghosts singing,
to everything its season.

That years, colder than our hearts,
tear us apart.

Small boats float on the blind river with the dead
who bicker about the price of milk and celestial news.

Old stars masquerade as alive, arrive
in a lightbox 200-year approach.

An old man, a philosopher I knew,
hammers the floor with his feet.

We have long ties to sunlight,
equations that always solve for equality.

There will be some yellow streamers at the end
or just a clearing where people have gathered.

The wise invisible river
whispers: time is beautiful and so are we.

Diane Mehta

Diane Mehta’s poetry collection, Forest with Castanets, comes out in March 2019 with Four Way Books. She is finishing a historical novel set in 1946 India while working on a collection of essays. She has been an editor at PEN America’s Glossolalia, Guernica, and A Public Space. She lives in Brooklyn.