Poem by Atsuro Riley
A last rock-skip hurlstorm (crazing river-glass)
the closest they ever were.
In right lockstitch
snared and split some fire-supper cooked on sticks.
By dawn the older brother took to chucking
what bottle-frags he could find and crud-oysters across.
The (high-pitched) younger blacked our waters
with a yowl.
Lord the sound such as rose from him
into us. Clings.
Hadn’t they clung tooth and claw to branch and bark.
—Came a man (and truck) to take them off.
Dieseled those boys off
some say somewheres upcountry,
Where it was they landed (why) nobody not them knows.
No body not them knows
just how they humped and grubbled home
what road they'd graved what woods criss-crossed
which creeks which trains they’d hopped who helped.
Came safe home sure but blank as houses.
Came safe home —as him. —and him.
—as (evermore) not them.
Atsuro Riley is the author of Romey’s Order (University of Chicago Press), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, the Whiting Writers’ Award, The Believer Poetry Award, and the Witter Bynner Award from the Library of Congress. Brought up in the South Carolina lowcountry, Riley lives in San Francisco.