Tonawanda Swamps

By James Thomas Stevens b. 1966
As it would for a prow, the basin parts with your foot.
Never a marsh, of heron blue
                                                  but the single red feather
from the wing of some black bird, somewhere
a planked path winds above water,
the line of sky above this aching space.

Movement against the surface
is the page that accepts no ink.
A line running even
over the alternating depths, organisms, algae,
a rotting leaf.

Walk naked before me
carrying a sheaf of sticks.
It’s the most honest thing a man can do.

As water would to accept you,
I part
a mouth, a marsh, or margin
is of containment,
the inside circuitous edge.

No line to follow out to ocean,
no river against an envelope
                                               of trembling white ships.
Here I am landlock.
Give me your hand.

James Thomas Stevens, “Tonawanda Swamps” from A Bridge Dead in the Water. Copyright © 2007 by James Thomas Stevens. Reprinted by permission of Salt Publishing.

Source: A Bridge Dead in the Water (Salt Publishing, 2007)

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Poet James Thomas Stevens b. 1966

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Relationships, Love, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Animals, The Body

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 James Thomas Stevens


Poet James Thomas Stevens, a member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Tribe, was born in Niagara Falls, New York. His Mohawk name, under which he sometimes publishes, is Aronhiótas. As an undergraduate he studied at the School of Visual Arts, Brooklyn College, and eventually at the Institute of American Indian Arts, where he earned an AFA in creative writing. Stevens subsequently earned an MFA from Brown University.
Stevens’s free-verse . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Love, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Animals, The Body

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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