Language of Rivers

Natalie Marino

for Yosemite National Park

Living too long in a gray city apartment, sitting still 

with the same white noise, sitting by the same closed 

window, reading the same bland morning newspapers, 

after having made myself numb with their same distant 

future predictions, like a child home from a trip to a blue

ocean keeping the sound of the beach with her, 

I cup my hand over my ear, so I can hear past the melody 

of funerals. Wanting to be more than melancholy, 

wanting to learn the loud language of wild rivers 

where the whole symphony keeps going, 

wanting to see the trees—

the red mulberry, 

the coast redwood, the giant sequoia, 

the paper birch, 

beyond cemeteries of bark in flattened fields, 

beyond the threat of ash, 

I walk outside and look for their reflections 

in the sky’s light telling me I can forgive myself

for my quiet grief, that I have permission 

to sing their songs.

Natalie Marino is a poet and physician. Her work appears in Bitter Oleander, EcoTheo Review, Kissing Dynamite Poetry, Leon Literary Review, Midway Journal, Moria Online, Oyez Review, Shelia-Na-Gig online, and elsewhere. She was named a finalist in Sweet Lit’s 2021 poetry contest. Her micro-chapbook, Attachment Theory, was published by Ghost City Press in June 2021. She lives in California.

© Variant Literature Inc 2021