WATER PASSING OVER STONES
In the winter ’of 98, on the coldest, curl-you-up kind of morning, an old man sat in the channel margin, rinsing
his beard in the stream, trailing it like a catfish caressing the rivulets and runnels.
dragging a mountain ash to the woodpile.
Back home, the fire’s ardor ran its fingers along our floorboards & still
the house groaned for more.
I watched him ring his beard & spread it again across the water’s surface. Ribs clinging to sky,
I ate a handful
of ash berries.
These days, I wish I could say I fear the woods because of ticks or the hunter’s stray bullet,
but when his grey eyes turned on me, I lived lines
of tragedy & loneliness, the shattered wineglass hearts of my family, an orgy of tendril words ending.
I ran, treeless, singing.
On that cold morning, my notes froze in the air.
I stumbled inside and they were hanging in front of my face.
That evening, I placed them on the woodstove & the aroma of sweet berries, mink-frosted leaves
filled our home.
These days, the creek has reclaimed itself, dried & becoming, limitless in mud. These days,
I believe in hunger-magic. I break my fast with the berries of the mountain ash, which, according to forest lore,
purifies the blood.
* We suggest viewing the .pdf version if using a phone for reading:
Nathan Erwin has studied poetry and poetics under Amy Nezhukumatathil, Kyle Dargen, Jaime Chavez, and Bernadette Mayer. His work has appeared in a number of print and online publications, most recently Willow Springs, FOLIO, The Cardiff Review, and Bombay Gin; and his book Hemp and Farm Justice (Mandel-Vilar Press) is forthcoming Fall 2022.