August 2008

Jane Varley


Jane Varley is the author of a memoir, Flood Stage and Rising, published in 2005 by the University of Nebraska Press. She has published poems and reviews of poetry and fiction, and her nonfiction writing recently won an individual artist grant from the Ohio Arts Council. She has a Ph.D. in poetry and creative writing from the University of North Dakota, and she is an associate professor and coordinator of creative writing at Muskingum College in Ohio.


My friend and I sat in silence
on the rocks of the flood wall,
watching as the river rescue
dragged for her brothers.

It was horrifying and simple:
boats, nets, bodies.
The two of us, waiting.

Years later in a letter she says,
"I still see him in the net."
I, too, see him, the dark load,
the way they used the boat's edge
for leverage. He hung for a moment
and water poured from his head.

The other brother was lost,
taken away in the undertow.
Watery grave, grave of water,

on hands and knees we crawled
down the boulders at the levee.
We slid into the water,
the tails of our shirts floating out.

The wake rolled toward us
from the barges going north,
and we cupped the Mississippi
in our hands. We could not
see through it.



Jane Varley: Poetry
Copyright ©2008 The Cortland Review Issue 40The Cortland Review