Low Tide on the Merrimack
By Cody Kucker
The river’s dropped beneath the bundled scraps
of wind-pruned trees, abandoned now and dammed.
Stray branches split and thin the rivulets,
silvered and made vitreous by the sun.
Canals form, levied by skippable stones
that, like the branches, have carried here
and will continue to carry until
each imperfection is worn clear off them.
Out of these severed-twig thatches bugs file,
mad for a taste of the frothed river-cud.
In bobbing swarms, they collect and abide
the walls of a tethered, transparent balloon:
black-headed helium, gas itchiest for ether,
greasy-nosed uplifter of things: the strands
of gossamer snaking like blown horsehair,
gold whips seeking adolescent boulders,
the soaked scruff spiders bolt their dew-barbed
cables hoping to electrify dumb bug
after dumb bug and turn their snapped
bow strings into a psychic’s threshold beads,
kebabs. Think of the harsh fortune that feeds
such slim tapers. Something wants spiders fat,
something sanctions such delicate slaughter,
revels in the art of a great blue heron
posing as stripped driftwood and riverbank,
each day assuming its throne of young bass
turned milky clump. Unlike it or the spiders
and shaggy boulders, most things are lost here,
their options few: hold out and be shat on,
eaten, or starved; or hope what brought you here
takes you up again, moseys you along,
that you may become nothing more slowly.
Cody Kucker teaches high school English and resides, with his wife and son, in Haverhill, Massachusetts, where he is also a member of the Haverhill River Bards. He received his MFA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and his poetry has most recently appeared or is forthcoming in Sublunary Review, Rabid Oak, Rattle, The Massachusetts Review, and The Carolina Quarterly, among others.