With a Mississippi Walking Stick*
                                                   Richard Stahl

This river’s rhythms live inside my scot pine leg
A crooked branch some backwater pulled down
Nearly drowning its face, before the current listed it
Peeling it clean as a cane.

This driftwood ran the channel until it grounded
In my hand on Davenport’s levee
But it remembers the bends and twists and whirlpools of the river.
This stick teases my shoulders like the heady fizz of a Mississippi Highball.

My fingers drink the sweep’s straight handle again
The hold I need to work my lungs and shoulders and river legs
No part of this stick is straight.
Some twists puff into knots.
The bark has been skinned off for easier handling.

As I walk back to The Green Tree Hotel
I see a wader ten feet away
The bottom noses down, closing its fork like a divining rod
Driving me back to the river and The Hotel
To wait for my next berth.

·         From ‘Under The Green Tree Hotel’