Hobble Creek Review
Hobble Creek Review
Grace Curtis
Three Poems for Friends

The River

A kink in the Ohio
carves out land otherwise
belonging to Kentucky.
I imagine you standing
in that spot, looking
eastward and seeing
only ripples of trees
and casinos in the brown
reflection. All day and night
the full-throttle river carries
barges, longing to take on
or to discharge payload,
to butt up against a dock
or, to lash themselves
six deep, their bellies,
the sky of dirty fishes.
Can you hear my words
afloat on the ancient Teays?
They wash onto the thick green
banks between Cincinnati
and you, reverberate
in the melted ice,
into the pile-driving water
that will one day take
a straighter path and give back
what belongs to someone else.
If I were to place
my yearning in a bottle,
cork it and throw it
into the million-tears-flow,
would you snag it
just as it bobs into the bottom
of the arc at Owensboro or,
would it become just
another barkless bole drifting
without purpose to the Gulf?

for Joey Connelly

The Lake

Are you staring into the face
of Lake Huron this morning, its cold
eyes looking back? Are you asking
from it, a small piece of its bounty,
its reluctant depth yielding
to your gentle tug? I am landlocked
at the intersection of winter wheat and corn,
the same waves with a different yield.
Some days everything looks
like an endless pasture, black dots
of cows who have never seen a fish, nor
stepped into any water other than a muddy
pond. We are both raking our landscapes,
using the same wind to separate chaff
from grain, letting the wind possess
what we discard, keeping only
what we believe matters, but maybe
doesn’t. The fields, the waves, the cold
blue pebbles that line the shore,
the cows, the fish are crosses,
religious icons to which we pray.  
It is all we know, what we think
we love, the masts to which
we ties ourselves.

for Joe Bastow

The Mountain
Are you stepping
onto a reluctant foothold
of ancient stone pushed
from the mantle in a fit
of rage, its glossy surface
a constant threat?
Is your walking stick pressed
into loose remarks of shale
that have lain in peace till now?
When I lie down to sleep
I am parallel to the sky
as if God himself placed me prone
upon the ground at birth
just to contrast your dogged slant,
my legs too short, my vision too narrow
to climb. Your mountains are real
to you, but a mere distant outline
in my periphery, a photograph spiked
with small dark specs too far away
for me to know for sure if I am seeing
mountain climber or mountain goat,
and too near to heaven for someone
as close to earth as I.

 for Rob Omura

Winter Solstice

We lost the tungsten stream coming down the mountain only
occasionally through fracturing birches as we drove beside it. (This is a
time when things should be said outright, not masked or laced into the
boot of some ebbing frill.) We were just wrong about it, wrong in the
way a cat miscounts, in the way a fish is fooled by glint. Wrong in
thinking we understood the rivulet into which we put our insignificant
craft, that we understood the obsession of waters that flow from the tip
of a peak, pushing to the ocean lured by the hope of re-congregation;
and, quickly. Wrong in youthful ignorance, in the daring that whittles
out life lessons, that never sees the clinched fist of a first punch. Our
chests were flung bare before the heave of ore so frothy we couldn’t stop
to ask ourselves how we’d landed here, or how we’d missed seeing the
rocky mêlée, or how we had stepped onto precarious river floes. I knelt
in the bow, clutching the sides and screamed: hard left, right, straight,
left, left, until . . . we settled into a quiet pool, quiet in the way a crocus
shoot stares down snow, in the way an unassuming day opens up and
holds the winter sun a few more arcs, in the way you suddenly
understand the power of the choices you’d never make.
Grace Curtis’ chapbook, The Surly Bonds of Earth was selected by
Pulitzer Prize poet, Stephen Dunn as the 2010 winner of the Lettre
Sauvage chapbook contest. She has poetry in or forthcoming in
Chaffin Journal
, Waccamaw Literary Journal, Scythe, Clockwise Cat,
and Dark Lady Poetry, Red River Review and Adana.
Her poem,
"Wordsplay" was named by poet Dan Beachy-Quick as the first runner
up of Phoebe Journal’s 2010 Greg Grummer Poetry Contest.  She
received an MFA from Ashland University in 2010.  She is currently
working on a manuscript, titled
Middle Space.