on alchemy

The Centennial Bridge, spanning the Mississippi River at U.S. Highway 61 in Davenport, Iowa. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Never much good at judging distances
or my own physical strength, I imagine
this morning that I could swim across
the Mississippi, be in Illinois by lunch.

I can see it clear from here; the grass
you’d be surprised is just as brown yet
still it’s humming: other. O! to emerge
today, on that exotic bank; a tip of my

hat to the cool affronted swans; slowly
stroll to any boxy old café; seek deep &
portly chairs, strange hum, trim cup of
soup – how warming, how well-earned!

Or, more: not swim at all, but shed away
this flaking shell; send Self abroad, sink –
slipping, slow – slick ooze through toes,
(or, what once were); then! only water, I.

Tongueless, sigh to sweating current; join
frantic gilded shards of sun, charge hard
across dark water – scalded skein, loosing
constellations – gone, shadow came along.

Reluctant, I return: Iowa, 1pm. Cleave soul
to bones and skin; itch with gravity; brush
river gauze from nails and hair – yet see! a
link or two come loose, & stink of freedom.

Rita O’Connell is a performer, producer, and writer who usually lives in Taos, New Mexico.
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