Home > Poetry > Portal
Published: Fri Jul 1 2005
Eva Lundsager, Were now like (detail), 2021, oil on canvas

Rag of colts fringe-ripped by wind
& unfurling over the basin’s parched terrain—
rising easterly—the fissured ridgeline crumbing
the basin floor; boulders rolled & rocks
plangent; swath fresh scar & the switchgrass
beneath the widening sky—mottled foal nosing
the fieldstone; portal into degrees difference,
proscenium arch leading the horses to shade
in the reach of the sun-drenched boulders.


The river’s bridge we look over, earth
exposed in the scour, river’s drift, road-cut
blasted with Roosevelt dynamite; night-crossing
the bridge’s south-end where headlights invent
cement guard-rails, a body reclined on them,
river swift & lit by the sidewalk lights as meteors
flash against the dark blue sky.


We have gone on to say suspicion: bridge activity
implying uncertain outcomes—come the river—
gone be the rocks, read & re-read is the land’s lilt
& shift, sift of earth’s surface, ocean & water
dredging the tops of mountains. Gone be
the slaughterhouse sludge, filling pipes beneath
the city, the catfish lengthening in murk downstream,
where fishermen cast cable, end-gaffed with pigeon
flesh, pierced & current pulled until the cable throbs
& pickups haul channel cats from the current seam—
algae, eddy-twisted—the river’s throbbing tumor.


Whiskered thing hover the silt bottom, navigating
brusque water, the rusting fenders, two or three
dulse-covered chassis; the boxcar, silt-filled & there
only because we heard the winter derailment;
two cars spin-drifting as far from the train, skid
& spark-surged over cement, the city’s southern
edge & displaced water, water removed from its
sedentary lull—vertical swelling, molecules shaping
the boxcar plunge, swallowed whole the steel
freight; portal: anything from the chain, unchained;
gone be the clarity of entrance through which
all description is lost.

Rob Schlegel was born and raised in Banks, Oregon. He currently teaches writing courses at the University of Montana’s College of Technology in Missoula, MT. (updated 1/2005)

Back to top