Nathan Erwin

Spring Rain in Taughannock Gorge

To my brother & all those radicalized by extremism

            It has been so dry.

Now, new flowers straighten

in the hiss of rain & the wild falls

pick up, taller than Niagara herself.

The soft shale is carried away. This is Ithaca,

birth, home. When you were a child,
we found your name carved

into the limestone. You

pulled at my shirt collar as I held you

beneath the pounding waterfall-dreaming:
a silent vertebra formed in the fossil

               of your body.

This morning, I sift the talus

for Trilobite without you. I look up

at the resistant layers, the caprock refusing

to crumble, the old men in me.

The Geneseo is still in love

& asks after you often.

You are not sadness, but you are not here either.

One spring, you stood under the geometry of heaven,

infinite pins of light, all wet sinew & nerve, you leapt
from the brink into the plunge pool,
emptied yourself, a cascade

turbid with the white sediment of violence.

          Many years have gone by since then.

Many years still since you said,  

commit to the falling of water. Did you mean,

                                                its crashing furrow,
                                                        Its silk?
               The mark it leaves:

past                                          & settlement

on the mist & moon & crowded earth?

I look up at the Ithacan walls around me, hardness ignited in rain,

abundance trenched up from the Late Devonian, 15,000 years

of shale & flow. Compassion can be like this –                         a dark trapeze,

an ancient mouth,                          then rain,        

&, when you least expect it,                                      light

Nathan Erwin is a land-based poet raised on the Allegheny Plateau, the northernmost tier of Appalachia. A community organizer, Erwin currently operates at the Pocasset Pokanoket Land Trust building healthy futures for indigenous farmers and organizing around land repatriation. His writing has recently appeared in Ninth Letter, Willow Springs, FOLIO, Bombay Gin, Rust & Moth, and Poet Lore. His organizing and his poetry are conversant, and so he writes about land, drugs, myths, and wanting.