Choices by Jan Conn

Jan Conn, photo by Stacy Greene
Jan Conn, photo by Stacy Greene

the falls spill over grey walls of rock,
a repeated hallucination. marble green water
unfurls white crinolines of foam that
cascade over the edge like five thousand
angels in anklets of lace.

churning in the river’s jaw
like loosened teeth, chunks of ice
jostle each other near the lip
of boiling water, then grind
and shatter far below.

once a man crossed this on a tightrope —
others rolled over in barrels. some
survived, some dreamed over and over
white water caught in the grapes of their lungs.

last year a woman dropped her child
over the black rail. was slow
to scream for help. exposure
takes too long, she said.

all night the child’s fingers
climbed the bedroom walls
like the knuckles of spiders.
the mother bathed in moonwater,
wanted to live in the mouth of a rose.
the child was an octopus, hungry
for love or milk. she provided milk.
love was a luxury.

we walk between twisted trees,
make starts of conversation.
wind whips sheets of snow
over dead grass; pares our faces
thin as paper.

we lean over the rails, stare down
until the water shifts, begins to fall
up. spray beads our hands, we reel
like drunken boats. we’re not yet sure
why we’re here. a sign nearby says
keep back. it doesn’t say
don’t jump.

Source:Mary di Michele (ed.) Anything is Possible: a Selection of Eleven Women Poets. Oakville: Mosaic Press, ©1984

Jan Conn’s website

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