The river floods and chokes
out the van you now stand next to
knee deep in muddy water
not sure what to do next.
The water is cold; it’s early spring.
The sky is a gray pothole
and the clouds are black ice.

In the floodplain of the river
there could be crocuses,
maybe skirting the trunks
of a whole row of trees,
there, in the waterlogged
riverside park you can see
but can’t reach, your steps
slowed by the suck and pull
of thick mud, and beneath
the mud, frozen ground.

In the park, the wooden posts
of outdoor exercise bars
peek above the water
and if only you could grab one
to pull yourself along.

Maybe the tree trunks
are playing hide and seek?
Each tree is a child,
each tree could be
your own child even,
half crouched in the river
that makes a shitty cover
that makes a shitty mirror.

Each tree is a child pretending,
and each bird circling the floodplain
looking for a place to land—
each bird is another child
holding a loaded gun.

Elegy for Almost

It was as simple as this: I really wanted you
and then you were gone. Bad things happened:
my finger pinched and bruised in the Dutch-door
at the daycare, the infection in my left eye
that spread to my right, the election
that didn’t go the way I wanted it to.

I was unconscious when the doctor slipped
her instruments in and took you out:
sac with no heartbeat, placenta that wouldn’t
let go its hold, raspberry sized cluster
of cells that didn’t put together right.
My love. My blinkered-out gaslight.

When I was 17 and drove my car, stoned,
around the Wisconsin countryside, I never
knew you. I ping-ponged over the yellow
line, singing along to Cohen’s “Hallelujah,”
my guidance counselor’s son waving
his tattooed arm out the passenger window.

Why do I think of those far away days now,
and again and again? Little against-the-odds,
in the daycare parking lot, three weeks later,
I tell another mother about you,
each word scraping the late fall fog,
the loss of you focusing in, like a telescope’s

broad lens catching some swirled debris
on the edge of the solar system,
some not quite formed ghosts
of rock and ice. Littlest little,
if I could find you there, I’d catch
you by your heel and never let you go.


The baby fussed in his crib. The crib fussed into a fever.
Fever dawned into morning. Fever broke into a day.

Paisley patterns adorned the day’s calamity-moist skin.
The day broke into a dress. The day broke into

a photo of my grandmother in middle age, hiking
her fever-black dress above her knees. O the sticky sugary

viscous drops of infant’s acetaminophen, crusting into fever.
Morning toppled over. I pressed a 20-dollar bill into

my husband’s hand as he left for work. I pressed his hand
into a fever. I pressed the morning into a clock.

The clock kept each hour from fevered morning.
The baby coughed into my upper arm, his forehead scarlet

with fever, the fine hair at the base of his head
curled and wet with paisley drops of sweat.

Nothing moved that I didn’t touch. The house hung
as on a nail, perfectly still. From my head, fever sprang,

perfectly formed, and dressed as the Goddess of War.
Each deer in the farm fields around the village fevered

the dirt for leftover corn. Fever thundered across
the potholes on the two-lane highway heading out of town.

Whose woods these are I think I know, I whispered into
my son’s hot ear, so that he might imagine snow

that could fall and soothe his fever. The alcove
of the morning is a corner where love sits alone,

a finger in each ear, blocking the fever of noise that rushes
through the disconnected telephone wires of this house.

REBECCA LEHMANN is the author of the poetry collection Between the Crackups, which won the Crashaw Prize and was published by Salt in 2011. Her poems have been published in The Georgia Review, Fence, Tin House, Boston Review, Ploughshares, and other journals. She lives in South Bend, Indiana, where she is an Assistant Professor of English at Saint Mary's College.