River Sonnet

When the old she-salmon swam to my rock
where I had sat to watch her moldering
transform into a fruiting body, clock
of flesh stretched above pale pebbles, ticking
tail where her roe lay like scattered apple
blossoms the rain has adhered to the road
and her great heaving sides stained with the dull
flowering shapes of fungus, I could not know
what secret pain it took for her to nose
against the current there, the large head scarred,
flanks those of a barnacled ship: she rose
from shallow water, a calcified shard
bearing time’s white etchings, and one dark eye—
lidless—that willed I mark her drifting by.

by Keetje Kuipers

© BOA Editions, 2010.

‘River Sonnet’ is taken from Beautiful in the Mouth, and reprinted by permission of BOA Editions.

Notes courtesy of BOA Editions:

Keetje Kuipers is a native of the Northwestern United States. She earned her B.A. at Swarthmore College and her M.F.A. at the University of Oregon. She is currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. In 2007 Keetje was the Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Resident. She used the residency to complete work on her book Beautiful in the Mouth, from which ‘River Sonnet’ comes. This latest collection was awarded the 2009 A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize.

Written over the course of five years and a geographic journey spanning Paris to New York to Oregon, Kuipers’ Beautiful in the Mouth examines contemporary female loss in terms of literal and figurative geography: the empty bedroom of a dead child, a clear-cut hillside outside of a logging town. From her own unique perspective, Kuipers continues in the spirit of poets like Elizabeth Bishop to examine how loss forces itself upon unwilling landscapes and how those landscapes must alter to receive that loss.

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