Poetry / December 2015 (Issue 30)

As the River

by Christian Benitez

The Lishui Bridge in Zhangjiajie, China, a 44-year-old bridge, was demolished within two seconds using a ton of explosives in order to make way for a new bridge that will allow a better flow of traffic.

                  Perhaps an admission: To say
                                         to create would mean to destroy. Hence, to throw
                                                                          a road into my belly, the bombs
                                planted on what you once built just to build
once more. This is to claim you have mastered
                                             nature: To shape the earth in accordance
                 to your demands, to say that the earthly feet are to pass
                                                            above me, & to be beyond—
                                                     Tell me how you say you have learned
                 the design of the world. Tell me how you say
                            you have learned the way water flows.
Tell me how you say you have learned
            anything at all. Geography lessons do not mean
                                             will while a map only means
                                   lines & never mind. To tell how you say I am the fissures
                                                                     that divides the earth. Allow me
                                              for remembrance: We were here even before
you have learned how to walk. We were here even before you were
                        the fish that never walked, only learning how to walk, how
                                                                     to breathe without its gills, how to move
                                          without its fins. How everything took place first inside
                       me, which means to say: I am your roots
                                   you have learned to forget. Or perhaps, to say:
                                                                                      I am you & you are
                                                              myself insisting to resist myself: Your attempts to create
                                                                       bridges to cross without ever touching
                                   my face. The need to bury me with my own
                                             earth, all willing to make me as shallow
as you once not were. Allow me
                       for remembrance & I shall not hold it
                                                against you: Throw into me once more
                                                            your burned bridges, all alight, gone—
           in one, two— from sight, & let all these concretes fall
                                                                    into my body, become my body, as my body
                                                                                             takes them all. Let the debris
                       come home, & let what was once earth turn once more
           into the earth. I open & I open, & I only
                               rise to the banks of your city.
I mean to say: Let me reach you & I mean to say it gently
                                  before violence. Or to speak in your tongue:
           Displacement before Drown. Throw me your stones, smooth & jagged,
                                                      & I swallow them whole. Throw me more stones
                                   & I shall teach them how to speak, & to speak
                                               against these myths you have built: That once,
                                                                   in the narrative, you were beyond
           what the eyes alone can see. You were naked & you couldn’t move,
                                             you were inside me & you were me.
                       This much is true. I dare say it is
                                the truth. & once, I would say,
in the narrative—for there was a narrative
                      to begin with—there was I, the river, & there was you, whatever
                                                         you were or what you have learned
                                                                             to become. Once,
                      there was us. & once, there were no bridges to be built.
                                                                       There were no bridges needed to be built.
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