Upon Hearing 56 Miles of the L.A. River Will Become A State Park by Martin Ott


The river cleaves us,
it brings us two shores.
Snoozing smog,
moon-blooming jasmine.
Green water,
brown water.
Egrets, airplanes.
On an atoll a man sits
cross-legged, wearing
a plastic bag
as a hat, meditating
to the cars grazing overhead.

Largemouth and catfish
are showing on hooks.
A little bit of everything,
but not a lot of anything.

The river leaves us,
it darts through our veins.
coffee table.
Burning bush,
fragrant weed.
We are Hercules bending
mountain streams
in our fists,
a child bending
over sidewalk to learn
the language of roots.

Try crawdads and waterdogs
for bass, powerbait
for trout and search
the high lakes for bluegill.

The river has forgotten
its way to the sea.
You can stare at a man
in a plastic hat
for hours
and still not see
the same waters twice.
Our children bring the river
to school in a box.
A dripping faucet
frightens us awake
late at night.
Nightcrawlers are working
best. Bass are biting
on spinner baits and plastic
worms. Some red-eared perch.

The river wishes it had
no bottom but man.
Drowning in air,
breathing sea salt.
Casting a net,
capturing ourselves.
Staring up through placenta
we see God.
Examining our children,
the death of the river
can’t be far behind.

Fly fishermen are using nymphs.
Catfish are so-so.
Bluefish are starting
to show at the cattails.

The river is naked.
We hum its song in the night.
Grass rises,
concrete recedes.
Fish feed
in our untested depths.
Two banks are connected
by a park bridge.
What man will we find
there on the atoll?

Pack up tackle and bait,
wash knives at the shore.
A slight rain is forecast.
Look into the depths.

The river cleaves us,
the river leaves us.
The river has forgotten,
the river wishes.
The river is naked.
It brings us two shores,
it darts through our veins.
It makes its way to the sea
with no bottom but man.
We hum its song in the night.



MARTIN OTT'S poetry and fiction have been placed or published in Black Dirt, Connecticut Review, Hawaii Review, The Madison Review,  The Midwest Quarterly, National Forum, New Letters, Quality Paperback Literary Review, Notre Dame Review, Rattle, Seattle Review, Soundings East, The Southern California Anthology, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Wisconsin Review and anthologized in the Yearbookof American Poetry and Magazine Verse. He is the associate editor of the online journal, PIF MAGAZINE.