An Archaeology of water-George Amabile

for Tracy Jager


I tell myself, don’t make a sound.
The river is asleep in its glistening skin
of lights, and all the sails are furled.


This is the hour of translucence,
a gift of shadows wrapped in veils
of moonlight, veils of air,


like thin scarves whispering the near
-ly inaudible music of butterfly wings,
a gift that cannot be opened


with the cutting edge of anything
at all. Only stillness can disclose
the syntax of its tai chi auroras.


Water has many voices.
They speak most clearly in the dark
to what we are made of, that knowledge


we have sometimes, of being here and flowing away
through dissonance into sunlit recognition:
what we once were, thoughts we have lost can return


without warning, the way love surprises
an overcast afternoon; everything
we have forgotten survives and goes on,


like a deep-sea current in deep-sea light;
nothing is only itself; look at a leaf –
there are the branching veins


of tributaries, a river system, the tree
of blood in each hand that grows from a source
deeper than language that splits and splits


from the first word, no one remembers, shaped
in breath after breath, as we talk about things
like this, and when the mist rises, the air


clears and there they are:
the river and the sea: lights coming on
in the mind: sails crossing:


and what you think is what I thought,
or dreamed once, a shadow
that shrugs off its dusty coat


climbs through veils of water, veils of air,
and fades to a summer night in the hills,
where fireflies are dancing with the stars.


George Amabile has published ten books and has had work in over a hundred national and international venues, including The New Yorker, Poetry (Chicago), American Poetry Review, Botteghe Oscure, The Globe and Mail, The Penguin Book of Canadian Verse, Saturday Night,, Poetry Australia, Sur (Buenos Aires), Poetry Canada Review, and Canadian Literature. His most recent publications are a long poem, Dancing, with Mirrors (Porcupine’s Quill, 2011), Small Change (Fiction, Libros Libertad, 2011) and Martial Music (poetry, Signature Editions, 2016) all of which have won the prestigious Bressani Award.
See other works by George Amabile: Poem-Getting Somewhere, Going South
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