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David Koehn's first full-length manuscript, "Twine," now available from Bauhan Publishing, won the 2013 May Sarton Poetry Prize. David just released "Compendium" (Omnidawn Publishing 2017), a collection of Donald Justice's take on prosody. David's second full-length collection, "Scatterplot," is due out from Omnidawn Publishing in 2020
Delta 1: What We Called Pickleweed Was Everywhere
By David Koehn



Yesterday my son, Bay, and I walked the slough, 
Across the water by storage sheds a man
In black socks, canvas shorts, and t-shirt fished
For something. I grab a gnat out of the air 
Flitting over the keyboard in from the yard
After putting the dog out because he pissed
On the stool’s leg. The season limits the road
Marking machine’s multiplication table, 
X-axis of the parking lot, Buckminster
Fuller’s parking spot. The empire’s delta ebbs 
And what looked like shit flowed toward central 
Slough. A muskrat plopped in the water, surfaced, 
And we noted webbed hands, the long thin tail,
And then the dust mote of brown murk. Bay tells me rats
Hold their breath up to 30 minutes but I
Don’t know if he means muskrats or not, or if 
He thinks when I say muskrat I mean the same 
Thing as a city rat or a field rat.
Swampfire, glasswort, pickleweed, 
Between our teeth the briny coruscation 
Confuses the tongue with a kind of complexity.
When everything shines what does not glitter glows. 
The eyes of a scallop run the entire
Equator of their conjoined body and we
Raise an eyebrow at cornfields, and grass fields, cherry
Orchards, and architectural levees
Of the floodplain. The quail root in and out 
Of the field grass and pearl-grey lizards 
Scurry into the crisping late summer brush
And startle the still with notes of ”Snake!” or “Rat!” 
A cliff of gnats steeple over the water
And songbirds sing in flight until silent
And swoop. We walked the dry side of the levee, 
Aside the bent gate once locked shut now open 
Enough to discourage property damage
Yet enough there to keep vehicles out; there, 
A couch, a couch that had a color once
But for the weathering takes on the color
Of dirt. Who brought it this far? Who placed it 
In the shifting shade of the nearly naked tree 
With such intention and while meaningless
To a passerby, and meaningless to us,
I thought of how my son from early on expressed 
His clear understanding that he was formerly
A creature of some otherworldly place 
Where he was one of many of himself, 
A self that was also a self-separate
From the many and he saw who his mother
And father would be and chose a life he
Would have and have to give up that other world… 
Holger Czukay asks in Shikako Maru
Ten, “Are you, are you, are you, are you, are you, are you?” 
Every word a distinct groove, heard, understood,
As advised for aesthetic purposes I 
Conflate many a moment and leave out
Two geese, their necks straining above the spikerush. 
How they stared us down concerned that coyote
-like we would bound across the field or otherwise 
Stalk them in their grace. This poem is not the place 
To mention two purple jet skis leap and buzz
Away from the docks at the end of the cay. 
Let's not mention the worn RV propped aside 
The port-a-potty not far down the northwest 
Riverbank. Here I need to note that I know
I am going to die, and death has made the rounds
At our house. Suicides in the solar system.
Girls our daughters’ ages -- one hung from rope. 
The other jumped from a bridge. Insert lovers 
Knee deep in blue beneath a palm, nuclear 
Reactor in the distance. They have no place 
Here, I do not want to mention the shadow
They cast. And now I am upset with my son 
For spending hundreds of dollars on app 
Purchases on his iPad and I can’t pay
The damn mortgage and I yell and his mother yells
And I wonder if he understands at 8
Having lost some of that shine from the other 
World, roughed up with the patina and rust 
That this world puts on us until our frame 
Rots away and the old VW Bus
Can no longer be fixed, is this the world
He chose or did he not see that the promise 
Was just temptation, the bane of temptation, 
To give in, the natural world invaded
By the promise of the human, and now he 
Has no choice but to endure. The bumblebee
Thumps against his forehead, loud and obnoxious,
Yet harmless, small-winged, impossible voyage. 
Teeth abrade the weed, and the scene takes root. 
All down the slough, everything going to seed.