Crossing Mother Brook

Crossing Mother Brook

That night I kept driving, 
	last customer for mulch and trowels
		before the night crew pulled the shades.

Windows down, I forded Mother Brook
	almost unawares—maybe an extra
		peeper or breath of muck

below the highway mixed in my mind 
	with the picture of Oscar and Valeria, 
		who earlier that day

ended their journey to our country
	face-down in the reeds 
		along the Rio Grande.

“Of all the elements to turn against
	an immigrant,” this canal
		might have said, carved by settlers

in the sixteen-aughts for mills between 
	the Charles and Neponset Rivers.
 		Mother Brook’s birth was alchemy

in reverse, conjuring a mule-team’s worth 	
	of power, and pailfuls of irrigation, 
		out of silvery tensile flow. Ever since, 
the waters all around us have been dragged 
	into crude magic, mostly disappearances:
		guns, cars, people following stars north.
This captive brook still shines,
	holding up a mirror to passers-by, 
		their features face-swapped 

with the drowned, the driver whose trunk 
	contained the weighted body, all those looking
		to cross over or hunker down. 

And so that night by Mother Brook I saw 
	even the stoplight’s harvest moons that snuck 
		beneath the bridge reflect there like 

t-shirted backs, photographed for scrutiny.
	Around those mute accusing humps 
		the darkened waters were all the wives and mothers 

who saw it from the other bank, 
	compelled to join this night march of memory 
		and keep going.

September 2019 
(Photo: Los Angeles Times)