Dorty Nowak

Shall We Gather at the River?

Where it bends near Poplar Bluff,
there’s a stand of thirsty-rooted trees. 
Sundays I sit on the shaded bank below.

But today I went to Calvary Baptist,
first time since you died—I don’t know why.
Ten years, nothing much changed.

Still the dog-day air, heat-scented bodies,
rows of church ladies flapping fans, 
colored Bible scenes on one side, an ad 
for McCoy’s Funeral Parlor on the other.  

Rivulets of sweat trickle down the canyons 
of their breasts. 

The collection plate fills with pocket change 
as we are reminded how blessed are the poor.

Mornings I touched your chest, a prayer 
for its rise and fall, forgot each breath’s 
a bright nickel spent. 

Soon, down by the river, the poplar leaves 
will turn metallic, shimmering like fool’s 
gold in the water’s flow.

© Dorty Nowak

Dorty Nowak is a poet and writer whose work has been published in the U.S. and France, where she lives part-time. A former educator, consultant, and a founding board member of The Oakland School for the Arts, she is a graduate of Northwestern University and The University of Chicago.  Further information can be found on her website:

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