& We drown
BY JUSTIN CARTER
If for every action
there is an equal but opposite,
then the question becomes how to define,
becomes what if nothing. Because
they brought me to the river,
I knew what was meant
when they named it Brazos, named it after
God’s muddy arms. I knew what each canal
hid: the slivers of murk, the dead fish on the surface,
& because I knew the disappearance of the river’s mouth
(each storm filling it with more silt),
I knew the disappearance of my own mouth, each year
of forgetting, each
unwording of the past, & when I couldn’t remember anymore
I dived to the muddy bottom
& tried to drown—
It was beautiful— the weightlessness,
It was beautiful— the belief we can crush
ourselves & never learn
regret, learn fear.
& when I realized my body wouldn’t stay,
that the desire to float up to the light was too much,
I was relieved. My mother said
we call this the act
of finding our Gods.
I call it the artistry of loss—
but with half-breath,
& floating alone in the Texas heat
I want to call it the failure to turn ourselves
into what we’ve tried so hard to be.
Grasping the bulkhead, climbing the pier,
the sun above.
becomes the only way to say then.
Justin Carter is a PhD student at the University of North Texas. His poems appear in The Collagist, Cream City Review, The Journal, Redivider, and Sonora Review, where he was awarded the 2014 Sonora Review Poetry Prize.