There’s a place along the river where
cars pull in beside the alluvion
under pines that suck up rich minerals
so their trunks are four linked arms thick
and the first branch needs a cherry-picker
or a monkey to get up there.
Somebody did go out on a limb;
tied a tow rope for generations to swing
out over golden water, letting go when
there’s enough below to land in,
dipping with a delicious inner drop
back to bank if the flow has stopped.
Sometimes when I go by with the dogs
kids party under the pines, spill from sedans
older than they. Girls flushed with
alcopops, rings glinting from tongues
sit in tree root seats as the boys
leap out with Tarzan whoops.
Slender as wild bamboo these girls
innocent in their tipsy pleasure
swaying over to pat the dogs.
There is always one who takes the dare
swings higher than the boys; afterwards
they sit with hair slicked to scalps, talk
rises with sweet smoke and mosquito hum.
Told my grandsons about the swing
we waded the stream, dogs splashing ahead.
At first I thought the ribbons and cellophane
catching the sun were KFC debris; chips
and chicken bones sprout from takeaway
seeds—once I found a scattered settee,
split cushions spread through the weeds.
Mounded against the trunk fake flowers
under a print-out photograph smudged
with last night’s condensation, as though
from crying; eyes that knew enough at sixteen
not to want to stay alive. The rope was gone—
untied and removed, she was the last high flyer.
One of the pines has had its bark hacked out
almost in a ring, angry, red cuts
that just fail in their attempt to kill the tree
from which she swung. As the dry year
draws on and the flow in the river dwindles
the roots suck deep and the wind
soughs through the needles.