The Woman Who Eats the River

by Noah Davis

My aunt told me that in February
when the ice breaks, the woman
who eats the river cuts her lips
on the blue edges, blood from her
mouth feeding the nymphs of mayflies
that cling to the undersides of rocks.
In spring the woman makes a dress
of drowned catalpa blossoms, stitched
together by the dim light of third shift,
a gift from her brother who lives
in the train yards.
His tongue is bathed black with coal
dust, yellow eyes peering from beneath
the railroad ties that help him count
the rhythm of cattle cars and lost hands
caught under wheels.
Their mother watches from the row
houses where in a back room she lies
dreaming of blackberries, purple juice
on her fingers staining breasts and thighs.
My aunt said the summer before last
she saw the woman give my uncle
a glass filled with a late-August riffle,
a kiss thick with tricos and rising trout.
Some nights my aunt finds him
on the back porch, smoking the last
breath of a cigarette, looking towards
the river, watching the chimney swifts
disappear, the whisper of mayflies
on his lips.