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.