First there was the man poling
along the Missouri. He had many
secrets, which is why he was
there, for the river didn’t care.

It just kept its central pulse
while the sloughs lapped at the
banks like the world
unraveling all memory

among the cattails. In July,
even the mud was hot, and
the man felt his heart grow weaker
as it grew calmer.

Poling was a vocation for his sons
later, each with their hidden shame
that they knew they could not deny,
such were the calibrations.

The first and the second, the third…
all plied a different river, each silently
cursing the blood coursing through them
and the many secrets dotting their histories

like the stars peppered on the night sky,
mapping a future.