Judith McCombs



Out of the storm pipe, between the old path
& the unsold lots, the water journeys
at will this winter, flowing & floating
over its sheathing of ice: I see the clear riffles
angling & falling seaward; the continents
forming & formed, where ice, mud,
weedstuff & human discards run aground;
the channels & shallows forced between continents;
the reed clumps hummocked & footed like trees
with silt & debris; & down through the water
a fragile mud-tissue holding, half-shielding
the dead mingled leaves & the fragments of weeds,
like wingstuff in amber; the reed stalks prone,
combed out like the hairs of a long-drowned beast;
& the powdery silt & the clear openings in silt
where the water has winnowed its earth: I see
beside the water the gradual shelvings
of ice, contoured like land, reaching out
from its shorings & ending; & over the still places
the frail film ice, transparent as cirrus
or the membranes which form over the unborn:

I see in this world the natural flowing,
older than Genesis, slower than clouds
but faster than stone, which forms the rivers,
the lowlands & channels & continents of earth:
which feeds on life & tends ever towards life:

& I praise it, in gratitude & bitterness, knowing
this flow, vulnerable & beautiful, is permitted
to be this winter, between the worn path
& the scrawny stakes with flapping red plastic
which claim this world.



Judith McCombs is the author of two books and numerous articles on Margaret Atwood, and several books of poetry, most recently Against Nature: Wilderness Poems (Dustbooks), and Territories, Here & Elsewhere (Mayapple). The Habit of Fire: Poems Selected & New is forthcoming in 2005 from The Word Works, Inc. Individual poems of hers have appeared in Calyx, Red Cedar Review, Nimrod, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, and River Styx. She teaches at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD, and coordinates a poetry reading series at Kensington Row Bookshop.

Published in Vol. 6, No. 1, Winter 2004


To read more by this author:
Judith McCombs: The Wartime Issue