The River Where You Forgot My Name

Corrie Williamson Click to

williamson-pic-1Corrie Williamson is the author of Sweet Husk, which won the 2014 Perugia Press Prize and was a finalist for the Library of Virginia Poetry Award. She is currently at work on a manuscript of poems that travel between modern day Montana, where she lives, and early 19th century Fincastle, Virginia and St. Louis, Missouri, where they trace the voice and history of Julia Hancock Clark, the woman who married explorer William Clark and followed him west. Poems from this manuscript have recently appeared in AGNI, 32 Poems, Terrain.Org, Southern Humanities Review, Quarterly West, and other journals.

St. Louis, Missouri, 1810

I thank providence for directing the whale to us; and think Him much more kind to us than he was to Jonah, having Sent this monster to be Swallowed by us in Sted of Swallowing of us as jonah’s did.
– William Clark, January 10, 1805 Journal Entry

The curved breast
of the carcass like a ship,
its great beaked head
beached. You arrived
too late for harvesting
much, a bit of blubber
to season with salt
boiled on the cragged,
fog-shucked shore,
& a splash of oil, lighting
a few wet nights. Into
the darkness where
the beast was born
flows the river where you
forgot my name, gifting
it to the girl only a father
ever summoned as Judith.
Forgivable, like most sins
of omission,  for a man
who  knew only
the obedient child, the one
trying to swallow
the vastness of it: memory’s
cold sinew, western sky,
whale, the will of a lord
who strands what he made.