by Susanna Lang
You need a light hand, a capacity for sitting still.
You need to hear more than was intended,
catch the words unspoken by lovers who assume
your house too small to be inhabited. Listen closely
for the soft whistles of a duckling lost beneath the struts.
You need an eye for what will happen next,
a boat too tall for clearance or a man too near the edge.
You must wave back at the fisherman who waves each time he goes through,
especially the last time when he has only ten minutes
before his heart gives out and his boat goes drifting with the current.
You look on tenderly,
invisible keeper of the keys:
you can open a way or you can stop
all those who would cross over.
Alert to the changing light,
to the quiet voice of the water at the city’s heart,
most of the time you do nothing.
Susanna Lang’s most recent collection of poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was released in June 2017 by Terrapin Books. Her last collection was Tracing the Lines (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2013). A two-time Hambidge fellow, she has published original poems and translations from the French in such journals as Little Star, New Letters, december, Blue Lyra Review, Prime Number Magazine, and Verse Daily. She teaches in the Chicago Public Schools.