“Bottomlands Dream” by Doug Ramspeck

Doug Ramspeck


The boy fell from the Monahegnee Bridge,
and his parents buried him, and the years
were a cottonmouth swimming in an oxbow 
lake, and the boy became an owl as he fell
and lived in the woods so that when he held 
himself motionless, he felt himself becoming
the gray bark of the tree. And sometimes
the boy swooped low across the bottomlands
behind the house of his parents, and sometimes
they watched him going by, and maybe he held
a mouse in his talons, or maybe the sun’s eye
blurred across the glass and transformed him
into a diffused smear of photons. One time
when he fell, he was caught in the updraft
of a prayer lifting itself toward the heavens,
and another time he landed in the lake then
became a catfish swimming along the muddy 
bottom, his body twisting and raising swirls
of murky visions. And his parents dreamed
sometimes of opening their arms at the bottom 
of the bridge and catching him. And the boy 
became a cottonmouth twisting his way
across the water’s surface, and the water
rippled out behind him and made of everything
a transitory motion, something there then gone.
And the boy whispered in the air as he went by,
I fall and fall but never strike the ground.

from Rattle #83, Spring 2024


Doug Ramspeck: “I wrote this poem in the fall, while being distracted by a bear with her two cubs as they climbed the oak trees outside my office window and fed on acorns and sometimes napped.” (web)

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