American Life in Poetry: Rivermouth

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

I like poems that rhyme so smoothly and inconspicuously that when you get to the end and look back you’re surprised to discover that you’ve just read a sonnet, this one by Eleanor Channell, who lives in California.

This poem appeared in the journal Rattle.


If you weren’t here, I’d fear the surge
of surf. I’d watch the moon wax and wane,
feel the constant pulling of tides, the urge
to drown myself in pity and booze, to explain
my life as “Cape Disappointment” with hard luck
spinning and winning souls like mine, a jetty
of riprap pointing to my faults, the muck
of my past too deep to dredge. But you say
you see in me a strength that strengthens you,
a heart that yearns for your heart and finds it,
upsetting even the odds we thought we knew,
renewing old hopes, confounding old conflicts.
All I know is we’re here, my love, our bed warm,
your body a bulwark to ride out the storm.

American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©Eleanor Channell, "Rivermouth," from Rattle, (No. 67, Spring 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of Eleanor Channell and the publisher. Introduction copyright @2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.