“Sunday Picnic on the Vltava” by Tera Vale Ragan

Tera Vale Ragan


The waves of air along the water
soothe the chapped spines of young
Czechs who’ve sheared their hair
to hawk it up and away from sweat
that pearls along their skull lines.

They gather clinking Pilsner bottles,
punk among the mosquito weeds and silted
rock the flood has left on the Ostrov strip.
They know the embankment well,
each grass stain and joint

drag, another hip conversation
raveled with the island boles.
Their black Levis, tied with ropes,
are cut at the knees, and dragged down
to moon the Jazz boats and ducks they feed

with hard baguettes. And where they lose
their footing in the muddy under-ledge
of the river, they meet their reflections
in water. Wet-handling their girls,
they pull them down deeper

into the darkness until their body parts
are obscured, the only light reflecting
like cracked beer bottle bits along the ripples
the paddle boats leave behind. One emerges
wearing his girl’s swim top—leaving her

on display—to ask if it looks good
on his broader shape. Beside him, a boy
scraping up earth to build a mud
fort, protecting the bank from swans,
looks on and learns how to be a man.

from Rattle #31, Summer 2009

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