Chris Dempsey


This spring, tasting of earth 

and old bone, seeps from a seam 


and pools among stones 

where I kneel and cup my hands. 


They are a poor vessel. So much 

has slipped through my fingers.


I drink deep and long—this journey 

of snow, this rain percolating down 


this trickle of centuries past roots 

and stones, finding its way deep


into the dark vaults, waiting 

for the water to filter down 


through all those layers

to fill the aquifer to overflowing.


I take into myself the minerals 

I am made of, salts of vanished oceans, 


tides that have turned to dust. 

I swallow wind and the sway of grass, 

the roots of trees taking up water,

the leaves releasing it back. 


I take into myself the fathers and mothers

those generations who journeyed 


across the taiga, who trekked over 

arid steppes, who wore the path


that I have followed to this place,

 to this moment where the water 


wells from deep in the dark earth.

What is older than our thirst?


What are we but water and dust? 

What are we but poor clay, fired 


by our ancestors? What’s left 

of them but pot shards and flint.


They came to this place, bearing 

baskets, bearing clay pots or gourds


They knelt, and dipped their hands 

in this clear water, trying to hold onto


what they were, even as I do, 

even as it trickled through their fingers.



Chris Dempsey has taught H.S. English for more than thirty years and is the author of a chapbook, “Winter Horses.” His work has appeared in English Journal, Talking River Review, Voices West, and Willow Springs. He lives with his wife and two wire-haired pointers on eight acres near Middleton, Idaho, where they have planted more than one hundred trees and native shrubs.  He is also an inveterate cyclist who has crashed his mountain bike on many of the notable biking trails in Idaho.