Downstream, Maura High

Dale Champlin, Fornasetti Stacked, Collage, 2021



            Bolin Creek, Carrboro, North Carolina


We were lucky, up here
above the fall line.

Nothing was lost here, just a few
shallow-rooted understory trees,

some leaves, already dead,
ripped off and battered by wind and rain,

broken twigs, small branches,
a veneer of sand and clay

washed out. Some small rocks
tumbled on the outcurve of a meander.

The old mill lost
a few more stones.

Nothing died here, that I know.
Of the things made, and used—

needed, even, two plank footbridges
slewed into the bank, a picnic table

slid through a playground and tipped over.
The creek collected only enough water

from these low hills and drainages
to scour its narrow floodplain.

But it flows toward the Haw, and the Haw
into the Cape Fear River, waters

added to waters. Downstream
haunts us, flooded cars and waterlogged houses

still drying out, and all those
who lost the little they had.

Maura High



Review by Robert Nisbet

These poems all draw us close to the natural world but in the company of sympathetic human observers who live close to and cherish that world.

The neat two-line stanzas of “Downstream” provide an ideal rhythm for its narrative and forward progress. The upstream community has weathered a storm and is slowly but surely taking a kind of inventory of what has survived, the trees, banks and bridges. But slowly yet inevitably the rhythm of the stream and the poem take them back to the events they are aware of, downstream, and what can be denied no longer, the flooding and “all those / who lost the little they had”.


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