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I learned to ski on the filthy Mississippi,
jammed my feet into stiff rubber bindings,
quick, before the current slammed me
face first into a red buoy (red right return,
I memorized, for the day I would be old
enough to drive the boat), and was lifted
by the gunning outboard motor to glide
on calm sheen above the leeches, mud
and catfish, cattle carcasses and blacksnakes,
unaware of what lay beneath the surface
as I cut away from the looming coal barge
that would suck me under if I skied too close,
and all night long strings of barges slid around
the river’s bend, their wakes lapping at
the sandbar where I lay awake, imagining
the river life, its destinations, Memphis
or New Orleans, where I would surely sin,
show my tits, drink hurricanes, partake
of the religion, dark and carnal, catholic
as the river, which drank blood from every
slaughterhouse in the upper Midwest
and washed the sins of Lutherans and heathens
down its vast open sewer to the delta far away,
and when I finished my run, I sank into the thick,
fast water and waited for the boat to circle back,
current sweeping me downriver as I peeled
off skis, handed them up, then hoisted myself,
marked with a waterline of greasy sludge.



Mary Stone leads poetry salons in the Phoenix area and serves as a spiritual director for artists and writers. Her poetry has appeared in Gyroscope Review, Presence, and The Healing Art of Writing.




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