We made camp beside the slow-moving river.
The cottonwoods and willows leaned out
to see their green faces in the placid waters.
Even the fish we dragged to shore were sluggish
and glad enough to expire in our nets.
And because I wanted you to join me
in the sleeping bag, and because our bodies
were damp with sweat when we awoke
in the mornings, we waded naked into the shallows
and bathed amid the yellow lotus and arrowheads.
It was then we began to slowly disappear,
for I remember driving along a dirt road at night
with the river to the east, and I remember
being back in my apartment and buttering
toast while looking out the window
at the blue refinery flames and the trash cans
at the back end of a Taco Bell. In the mornings
I would feel the shower water against my head
and shoulders, and I would turn on the radio
to songs I only faintly recognized, and then one
morning I dragged from the mailbox a postcard
I must have sent to myself, for on one side
the green water had slowed completely to a stop,
while the other side was blank and unbearably white.
I have come to remember
my drunken mother swaddling me in tinfoil
and hoisting me above the television as an antenna.
Armies of mosquitoes lifting me
higher than the garage while my brothers
fired at me with their pellet guns.
The noises I used to make like a humpback whale
when my father would tie me to a metal lawn chair
then heave it toward the center of the pond.
And then there were the wild mushrooms
my sisters sprinkled on my breakfast cereal
every morning—to see which ones were
the most interestingly hallucinogenic,
and my fellow classmates at school who stored
spare pencils and slide rules and the occasional
chalk eraser up my rectum, which was how
I managed in my spare time to create
a phenomenology of all existence, especially childhood.
Here is the common language we all dream of:
the mosquitoes are lifting us again.
Up toward the clouds. While pellets
are whizzing past our faces as familial love.
©2008 by Doug Ramspeck
directs the Writing Center and teaches creative writing and composition
at The Ohio State University at Lima. Several hundred of his poems have
appeared in journals that include West Branch, Connecticut Review,
Seneca Review, Confrontation Magazine, Rattle, Nimrod, and Hayden's Ferry.
His poetry collection, Black Tupelo Country, was
awarded the 2007 John Ciardi Prize for Poetry,
and will be published in the fall of 2008 by BkMk Press.
He lives in Lima with his wife, Beth, and their daughter, Lee.
For more information see his