House silent as the river beneath it. An anchor
—Already ancient when it was found—
Now missing. Like the river itself
Though it proved that ships once sailed farther
Even than where we live.
The white sails furled,
Unfurling; or the rows of oars, the cargo.
And the intuition of adventurers
Who—sure of nothing—
Brought it here.
Lumber, casks of resinous wine: a taste
We take for granted though at first we hated it.
Then wanted more. Then built
These streets, brick arches trembling beneath
Us, dark stain spreading across the wall and now
A trickle, a drop—
Some mornings it seems that by lifting a floorboard
We could see it running clear. Complete
With gravel, weeds.
Fish scurrying from the light.
James Longenbach (1959–2022) published six poetry collections in his lifetime—Threshold (1998), Fleet River (2003), Draft of a Letter (2007), The Iron Key (2010), Earthling (2017), and Forever (2021)—along with nine books of literary criticism, including The Lyric Now, How Poems Get Made, and The Art of the Poetic Line. His fifth book of poems, Earthling, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. A Guggenheim Fellow and recipient of an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he was he was Joseph Henry Gilmore Professor of English at the University of Rochester until his death.