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Beside the Broad Dordogne

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I wake to the sound of water, and think,
"Mother has died and gone to France,"
She is at un autre hôtel, speaking French
better than ever, while I stare at the fog
that has a river in it—the broad Dordogne,
making its river noise, as if all the faucets
have been left on all night. The river
rushing in one direction only, so different
from Blackfish Creek, where the sea floods in
and back, scrubbing the sand both ways.

Well, one travels so things are different.
American actors speak French on TV here.
Last night they showed Accident Catastrophe
about two babies switched in the hospital at birth.
One dies. The parents discover the dead child
was someone else's and their child is alive
in Florida with son père, though sa mère
est morte de some disease, who knows?

Anyway, Ed Asner, who plays the lawyer,
speaks gravelly French, but people have
an American demeanor, they pull their hair
on the edge of violence. Then each family
gives up a piece, and the child ends up more
loved than ever, as if it's inevitable.
Or so the river is telling me
with its one-way simplicity,
like gravity. "Alive in the eternal
heart of France"—that's Mother
I'm thinking about, for some reason,

maybe the journal my wife's been keeping,
so like the daily letters Mother wrote
to sa mère et son père, when her life
was flowing through her like the broad
Dordogne. And where is she now?
Does she wish my father were with her,
one of him alive, and one with her?
A bell is ringing wildly, each of its peals
like a round boat rolling downstream
where the river divides around an island
only to sweep back into itself
somewhere in the fog.

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Beside the Broad Dordogne

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  • Alan Feldman is the author of several collections of poetry, including  Immortality (2015), winner of the Four Lakes Prize; A Sail to Great Island (2004), winner of Pollak Prize for Poetry; and The Happy Genius (1978), winner of the annual George Elliston Book Award for the best collection published by a small, U.S. non-profit press. His work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the New Yorker, and Kenyon Review, among many other magazines, and included in The Best American Poetry anthology in 2001 and 2011. Feldman's recent work appears in Hanging Loose, Cimarron Review, upstreet, Southern Review, Yale Review, Salamander, Southwest Review, Cincinnati Review, Catamaran, Worcester Review, and online in Boston Poetry Magazine and Cortland Review. His poem "A Man and A Woman" was featured in Tony Hoagland's 2013 article for Harper's, "Twenty Little Poems That Could Save America."

    Feldman was a professor and chair of English at Framingham State University, and for 22 years taught the advanced creative writing class at Harvard University's Radcliffe Seminars. He offers free, drop-in...

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