Heading for the River

By Jana Russ

On these walls ancestors gather—
wasp-waisted women,
one dark-hatted man—
staring down the years,
suspicious eyes, cat-slitted.
The young girl in white moves
in sepia pantomime—
now with bonnet and beau, next
with babe in arms, on and on
to the final funereal waltz.
A formal dance of daguerreotypes
whose names
even our parents
have forgotten.

      They whisper
in my dreams—
incessant crickets
cracking the quiet:
We wait for you.

You can chase down morning,
wave the thin red light of reason,
secure as anyone can be
in an Einsteinian now
but whom do we really fool
with these bits of paper
and the ink poured out as black
as the corruption of oil
on doomed water?

      In the end we
will still be eaten by the dark,
left to sleep with stones and shadows
that lick slender fingers,
pull at the treacle moon high
above that Stygian flow where passage
is only two pennies for the asking.

Jana Russ has an MFA from Northeast Ohio Universities, and teaches World Literatures and Chinese history at The University of Akron. Her poems have appeared in Riverwind, Penguin Review, Poetry Midwest, Juicebox, Full of Crow, Georgetown Review, and others; and in two recent anthologies: Women. Period (Spinsters Ink Press, 2008) and In the Hardship and the Hoping (J.B. Solomon Editions, 2008). She is the poetry editor of Pakistaniaat.

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