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The Names

"It satisfied desire and created desire."—DeVoto

For my sister

All night it kept up its music, the Boulder River,
skirmishing across a shallow bed of stones
beyond the cottonwood, Russian olive and poplar,
the tangled mosquitoey woods where cattle browse.

Cabled in its quick places, glassy in its deep,
the river had no particular claim on me
(though I have known other rivers that did),
except that it inhabited my sleep,

not with Multnomah, Rejone or Mississury,
the steady incantation of lost names,
not even with the pounding of the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe
eastward with its load of chemicals and coal,

but with something more fugitive and unpronounceable,
something I glimpsed in the vestments of the Audubon's warbler,
black and yellow and white and once again black,
then lost through the dry grass and rubbed sage of midsummer.

This poem appeared in the February 20, 2006 issue of the magazine.