Spring, El Portal

Emily Raabe

I told you the story in the kitchen, 
shouting over the shouting river. 
You examined your hands, 

the thin lines in your wrists 
like the snaking of blue on a map, 
then gave your apple a name and went hungry. 

Outside, the Merced river churned, 
a sullen Chinese river harnessed barely for rice. 
Every day it rose further, crowded 

with stones from the high country, 
swallowing unsated the neighbors’ dog, 
two or three trailer homes, 

the hotel bar built too close to its banks.
The story: Roger Williams died, 
was buried, became an apple tree. 

The people in Rhode Island 
ate him every fall, inside the reddened skin 
and sweet white crisp of the crop 

and when they dug him up to move his grave, 
they found only roots 
like limbs in the shape of a man.

That night the river entered our yard, 
its long arms calling us awake.
We reached across that silent bed as water 

jostled the doors, then imitated lonely, 
begging to come in. After 
would be different, the house like a boat 

barely moored, everything 
canceled for days 
while the river called in its debts,

and one of us gone by summer, 
but that night we lay together 
and let the river in. It didn’t hurt      

as we thought it might, 
so we filled and filled our greedy mouths
as the water rose dark in the house.