'My Job Is At The River' by Steven Davis
My job is at the river. I go at midnight under a rancid sky
slurring some kind of puce drivel.
At the edge, I take off clothes, retching, step in the icy muck.
I don't hesitate, I can't.
Others are naked nearby, stepping in, their eyelids of concrete
almost closed, no one speaks, we can't,
Up and down the river bare forms wade deeper,
shiver, splash, choke,
We heave and heave yet are not purged, floating,
face up to the brown slurry sky,
frigid waste canal below, flowing nowhere.
The chunks bob around me like small decoys,
a brown flotilla.
Soon, the stench rises my gorge,
I pray for mercy, the hurling release, it won't
happen but I beg, I always do.
Slowly, it rolls from my mouth in swells.
Then begins a gurgling moan, body in
sympathy, mind aghast as if it’s all new,
And all then join, resound in a choral gag
of aborted spewing.
The sky never quite dark, always dim,
Either close or far I don’t know, its reeking
drool has covered me and stings my eyes, I
Shut and wait for the signal, floating.
A moment, maybe, just floating.
Never touch another person, but feel presence, hear them
trying not to struggle.
No one talks, we can’t.
Maybe a moment, frigid floating, then
Stillness brings shivers, the first small trembling inside,
Then like the cranky planet itself,
waves grow to the surface, and I quake, try not to, but
I have to, we all do.
Shivers disturb the miasma, the gelatinous
Stink, calmed a minute, awakens, the malodor invades,
the gagging gorge responds, and all over again,
rhythmically bucking and mewling the queasy seep
Down my face my neck and chest, into the river, me
and the others, waiting for the signal.
Copyright. Steven Davis.
Steven Davis is a teacher, editor, and writer. He has published stories and poems regionally. His influences come from many writers, including Raymond Carver, Georges Simenon, and Charles Bukowski.