The St. Croix Crests North of Stillwater

From this battered bluff on a violent 
spring day, I can’t calm or curse the river.
It won’t be coaxed to return what it has taken.
Earlier, it swallowed the islands below the Arcola bridge, 
pulling them into its greasy body along with the waiting 
nests, disturbed sand and the water plantain
just beginning to unfold.

Two summers ago, 
trumpeter swans colonized
these unnamed slips of land.
From this same tangled bluff,
I watched the swans descend
under the span of the bridge
and fold around the trestle— 
a single wave of white wings— 
alighting softly like tufted seeds.
Cygnets swarmed from shaggy nests
to muck the silt in the shallows
for duck potato and crustaceans.
Their boisterous calls rose like laughter
from the green hush of the grass.

A muddy foam swirls above the vanished land
in the gray emptiness beneath the bridge.
The river is the interloper here.
The land will rise—stripped and new—
when the flood subsides. 

Even if the swans do not return,
this dirt has work to do.