Pick-a-Poem: Rick Campbell


Welcome, dear readers, to another weekly installment of Pick-a-Poem! If you’re interested in finding new poetry to read, here’s a way for you to hopefully find some. Every week we feature a new poem from someone whose work you may not have read before. As always, our weekly poem comes from Poetry Daily, which is a great website that features a new poem every single day. This week we’re featuring Even the Ohio Can Change by Rick Campbell.

According to his bio page on Poetry Daily, Rick Campbell has written several books of poetry, including DixmontSetting the World in Order, The Traveler’s Companion, and A Day’s Work. He has been the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, an NEA Fellowship in Poetry, and two poetry fellowships from the Florida Arts Council. He has been the director of Anhinga Press for more than 20 years and he teaches at Florida A&M University.

Even the Ohio Can Change by Rick Campbell

The river I grew up on was rank
with oil. Shoreline stones
gleamed slick-blue and nothing
in the river was worth a slug
of scrap metal: carp and catfish,
sick, riddled with chemical blood.

My river was for barges,
owned by US Steel, ARMCO, J&L.
They pumped it full of slag,
dripped and drained oil and gas
through a thousand hidden holes.

Nothing good could come of it
except a living and life,
a whole valley’s clinging dream.
The Indians who named it beautiful river
weren’t wrong; how could they know
what would come, dark and sooty,
burning the sky, turning the earth
to mud and cinder.

Even in our terrible need
we couldn’t kill it and the river
is coming back to river once again.
In the cold ruin of the Ohio’s banks
muskies swim the secret paths below.

We grow older, the river younger,
and great fish smash into the air
to swallow a caterpillar
fallen from a willow branch.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s featured poem! For more of these posts, click here!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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