Wrong River

Naomi Rhema Edwards

               Where there is salt there is

water, where there is salt there are scattered

the echoes of stars.


Star fields, sliding along

the walls of the mind 




after the projectionist

is hanged                       still I see him swinging in my empty mind


casting loops of shadow, becoming



Absorbed into the big 

big big 

machine keeps time.



               The most terrible concept of all, God agreed.  The awful project.  And yet I said it, so it will be so.  Let there be time, let it be kept, may its territory be so bound.  


               Meanwhile, how relentlessly my friends have died!  Three in one winter, now again another, come the summer, still another, gone


oh well fell down a 



                Here I'm dancing in a club again

broken glass in Berlin

cigarette tumbling down my shirt 

                                                                a shooting star, I vomit, joyous


someone drags me out of bed by the foot


Dublin, 2007                  it's a case of mistaken identity        sorry, sweetheart 

thought you were someone else

so did I 


                         drank too much and fell                          in the incorrect river

                the one whose currents

                I don't know


that was a case of mistaken identity                               sure


                but now let us think of those rivers, right rivers

                whose black-green nightly depths 

                tumulted me 



                sober, sober, set me right, set me     cold and wide awake

                tumbling over under water treefall to the 

                railroad tracks


where Jon was waiting, drunk

on Southern Comfort, with the knife               to make us brothers


though I'm just a stupid girl, I 

can be a brother to the one

whose death                                                          too stupid to foretell, I was just 


dancing by a river

clogged with ghosts before its oily water 


caught on fire

before I saw the heron with its wings of flame


                hell forever 

                reinvents itself 

stop the reel

                for a suicide break.


Or maybe we are not 

yet death, oh Jonathon, maybe            I thought           this is as bad as it gets 


                wrong river, wrong city          wrong needle wrong knife 



but now I know there is no 'as it gets' 

oh it gets 

bad bad bad     it sure gets


bad                                                            I'm sorry, I do, I do                 I do believe in suicide 


                in irrevocable invitations


come, let's be



                our humiliation enjoyed pre-emptively, then gotten over, yes?  The projectionist agrees, his feet

                enact agreement 


oh why why a river when I wanted the sea

give me salt that shrivels me to the size I really am

in homage to the God who understands me                              who decreed there is no bottom, it just keeps

going down 

down down 


(and it is said, and it is good) 


like the quarry where the boy who drowned his dog was drowned by other boys, who also drowned,

and the townies and the schoolkids fistfight broken bottle broken glass red busted taillight cadillac, red

rose red wine big dance bare ass yes yes I saw that movie too where is the beautiful girl losing her grip

on the wheel


(stop the reel)


who's the quarry now, yeah


                answer the question, who 




                                                           Shall we gather at the 

                                                           beautiful that beautiful that 




                                                           where the heron burned to black tangles of wire

                                                           where my drunken guts have myriad myriad



Yes, gather, ye 



we are to be ignited with the spirit        baptized              lest we be too old                     to suicide.  


                                                           As a child I came up 

                                                           from the river's silty heart thrust

                                                           into daylight                  crowning

                                                           in a cloud of biting flies


                                                           spitting and choking, wishing

                                                           I came from the sea 


give me that cold clear Aeagean               or, come on

give me something 


                                       so I can say                            those hulking monsters in the water are just 

                                                                                      islands, wait for the sunrise, then you'll 


Naomi Rhema Edwards graduated from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a BFA in Writing, and earned her MFA at the University of Pittsburgh. She lives in Pittsburgh.