by Mary Ardery
You cross just before dusk. January water floods your boots, surges up to your knees, then pierces your thighs. Goosebumps rise like ridges on a map. You still shiver even after changing into dry clothes. Remove your gloves to give night meds and feel your hands ache in the freezing air, a bone-deep throbbing as you twist countless lids off pill bottles, your fingers clumsy with cold. When the women lumber drowsy to their tents, their keychain lights blink on and off and on, blue dots breaking the distant black. Meanwhile, the river rushes on, a lullaby that haunts you like children sweetly singing in a trailer for a movie where no one survives. ____
Mary Ardery is originally from Bloomington, Indiana. “Song of the River in Winter” is about her time working as a field guide for a wilderness substance abuse program in North Carolina. More of her work appears in Missouri Review’s “Poem of the Week,” Fairy Tale Review, Cincinnati Review’s “miCRo” series, Prairie Schooner, Salt Hill, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, where she won an Academy of American Poets Prize. You can visit her at maryardery.com.