Michael Northen


Listen to the audio version.

Water laps at the edge of Cooper River,
sun just warm enough to compromise
the breeze coming off the water.
Rain-blanched leaves, broken bits of glass,
twigs stripped of bark, splayed feathers –
winter's final graffiti – rim the banks,
notes-in-a-bottle assuring us that warmth is not far off.

Dan stands behind the podium
fingers skimming Braille letters
as though to unlock the poetry held there
or perhaps it's an organ from which
his own song rises transformed into words.
At the first clap of hands he cautions:
No applause until the end.
He is taking us down a different river
through bends and cadences he knows well,
our noise like gunfire on the bank
jolts us from the journey.
His voice flowing, honest
opens into expanses of coneflower and larkspur,
not our homeland, but familiar.
It's where we've all collaged our memories from
a childhood prank, a father's words,
a glimpse of heaven.
Dan retrieves the bottle bobbing beside us,
deciphering its hexagrams.
His forecast reads:
The yellow sun shines lemonade
which means the sky must be blue


Michael Northen is the editor of Wordgathering and a founding member of the Disability Literature Consortium. He is co-editor of the anthologies Beauty is a Verb and The Right Way to Be Crippled and Naked.