There was this river in my city
In China
It passed right under a stone foot
Bridge that I crossed almost
Every day.
             It was full
             Absolutely full
             Of garbage.
So I called it the garbage river.
             On hot days it smelled.
Like garbage.
             Large red buckets,
             Old pieces of bicycles,
             Bits of woven straw from broken hats,
             White plastic bags,
             Old vegetables,
             Old meat,
             Broken shards of clay and wood and glass.
When it became very dry
The water disappeared
Back into the earth.
             And the garbage laid still
             In the pathway
             Of where the river
             Had been.

It formed
A sculpture
Snaking
             Through the city
             Through the city limits
             Through the hillsides
             And the farms
             And the rows and the swamps
             and the rice.
I passed over it
             Every day
I left the city
             And returned.
It was still there.
To me, it had always been there.
             It seemed like it could have been art.

The season changed
Suddenly I needed
A blanket
At night,
And it began to rain.
             Like, pour.
             For days and days
             And weeks even.
Completely unavoidable
             For months.
Just feel your wet hair
Cling to your face
Your neck.
             Might as well splash around, pretend you are in
             another time
             Another world
             Because you are.
The water returned to the river
So full
And it lifted the garbage again,
Swept it out of the riverbed
             Carried it all to somewhere else.
And then there was this river in my city
And I passed over it every day
And I didn’t call it anything.
             Washed the whole thing clean
I don’t know where it went.
             Just thought of what it could mean.
So many good things.
Like what if we had these ideas
             And they could change the world.

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Erica Skog lives in Little Canada, MN, with her husband. She is a graduate of Luther College and has a Master's Degree in creative writing from Hamline University.

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