We swam the Tennessee River
with your dead eyes open to us, silent within
willow fronds on the surface, green tendrils
reaching down.
Your body hung there, suspended
for days. No one knew you, or counted you missing,
or turned the shore end over end to discover

your ending.

It was an accident – finding you.

The rescue boats weren’t sent
for you, nor the lights on the early dawn striping the water
meant to catch a shadow, a silhouette, dark and human-like
among the rushes.
Swimmers, safe in our suits,
watched over by so many guardians, glided by without so much
as a prayer for you, as fond of ignorance that day

as any other.

This was your funeral procession.

Bless the river minnows and the fat
blue catfish, the bull frogs on the stones sloshing a drunken song,
the sound of the current patiently tugging
your pants leg,
the sun’s rays that recognized
your face as earth, not water, not meant to float so still,
thick and water-boarded, tangled in a journey of silence

and night.

You were a sentence in the newspaper.

Unloaded from your house
of sticks after the last swimmer passed – no name,
no hometown – your cells swollen, sloughing into the vast
throat of river,
you were the voice
imagined in our watery dreams, trapped beneath glass,
the liquid breath over the words we finally found for you
on the shore.

Sandy Coomer is a poet and artist living in Brentwood, Tennessee. Her poetry has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, and she is the author of three poetry chapbooks, including Rivers Within Us, and Available Light, which will be published in 2019 by Iris Press.

Sandy is the founding editor of the online poetry journal Rockvale Review, the curator of the ekphrastic poetry project 20/20 Vision, a Poetic Response to Photography, and the founder and director of Rockvale Writers’ Colony, located in College Grove, Tennessee.  You can learn more about Sandy at http://www.sandycoomer.com/

River Man was first published in Issue 9 of Apeiron Review, and is also featured in Rivers Within Us.

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