Coming up toward the crest
of the last long hill
before Cowley Twenty runs east into Cowley One,
about a mile-and-a-half west of Rose Valley Cemetery,
there’s a large culvert
that runs under the rough-patched pavement,
carrying the storms from north to south
beneath the road
so it doesn’t end up in the woods.
There’s a pretty good wash there
where the water comes tumbling out,
spouts into a lining of rough rock and rip rap
dumped into the trough to try and keep things
from getting too out of hand
and undercutting the land that holds travelers in place.
Just below that,
set into the edge of the trees
and mostly hidden by the weeds and leaves of summer,
there’s a ledge of sorts—
a hanging lip bound by roots
and the shoots of some sort of thin promise—
and then nothing:
a big hole gouged by pounding water
hounding away everything that feels like dirt,
cutting down fifteen feet or more
and skirting out a rounded run
big enough to hide a truck in
if you could get it through the trees.
Down at the bottom,
you can see the burnished face of hard-edged limestone,
the upper rims of bedrock
that halted the gouging
and forced the waters to seek a softer path.
Life has its ways
of finding the edges of our firmest places,
no matter how much space
it has to hollow out for the knowing.
Eventually the slow-growing deltas
will keep some of what has washed away,
the fine grains of what we couldn’t keep,
but it is the cutting in the narrow stream,
formed in the shadows and hidden from dreams,
that usually defines us.