Today's poem is by Clayton Adam Clark

The River of Ugly Fishes

Blame it on the limestone—the sinkholes,
the speleological interest, an overwhelming
karstness here. People get lost.
Its tributaries are losing, but a hellbender
of eastern origin has shown its face
this far west. The snot otter, grampus,
devil dog can breathe underwater
without gills, lungs only for floating,
and most closely resembles crayfish-eating
petrified wood. Until it swims. The limestone
swallows water, cuts the streams,
and thus this river, down but filters
mud like a sieve. Water goes in—it must
come out-mud never leaves. The color
of muddy river, there's nothing wooden
in a hellbender's wiggle work upstream,
the backbone soft, the little flesh around
infused with capillaries that filter
oxygen. A spring, the state's fifth largest,
restores groundwater to air. Rock gives
and takes, erodes, but water does
what it pleases like two-foot salamanders
with no known predators except for humans
camping along these banks. One trips in
a hole-the underground cave beneath
collapsed. It died. Blame the bedrock,
permeable and hollow. It follows water
all places for water's strong-willed—
this land is weak. Or blame the ocean
that left for deeper chasms instead
of limestone, the compressed remains
of creatures who swam here, dying
for karst, so long before Missouri.

Copyright © 2014 Clayton Adam Clark All rights reserved
from The Southeast Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

Support Verse Daily!

Home   Web Weekly Features  Archives   About Verse Daily   FAQs   Submit to Verse Daily   Follow Verse Daily on Twitter

Copyright © 2002-2014 Verse Daily All Rights Reserved