The Once-River, Charlotte Newbury

The river is a bright litany of pebbles
with the water drained away,
shining like scales on the back
of a snaking path across the country
leading all the way back to the sea.
On every third step a faint bubble rises
from the open mouths of fish
who lie gasping along the route
and have become markers,
their bodies soft, cooling the toes.
The cartographers flock to inspect
the new land. Crouch low at the edge,
tracing the dry banks with their fingers.
We watch them from the centre
and link arms to measure the width –
same as ever – though it feels bigger
somehow. It is the absence. In it,
all things multiply. Our bodies reach
to stretch the length of the country,
while experts decide how best to build here.
But we are protective of our
once-river. We lay along its length
in sodden clothes, head to toe, cradling
plants, burying ourselves in stones, sinking
deeper, every time they try to shift us.

*

Charlotte Newbury is a poet from South East England with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Exeter, who writes mainly about witchcraft and ecofeminism. Her writing has appeared in The Dawntreader and Severine, and you can find her on twitter @charnewbpoet. 

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