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BURGESS FALLS, TENNESSEE by Owen Lewis

Where the waters cut the gorge cut strata of soft stone where granite
resists and holds itself against the water

where the waters drop in sheets across the rock steps then plunge
in white cascades

like moving ice the liquid of glacial rumbling froths and pounds stone
a heavenly and timeless pressure

to J.W.L.

Where the waters cut the gorge cut strata of soft stone where granite
resists and holds itself against the water

where the waters drop in sheets across the rock steps then plunge
in white cascades

like moving ice the liquid of glacial rumbling froths and pounds stone
a heavenly and timeless pressure

the pull of the spin of the moon the star rise the unfathomable magnetism
of polar caps stretching the planet

there beside this monument of the elements we sit
father and daughter in the misted air

miraculous as geology, as history in stone that survives
that we have survived our lives.

Water is clear and moves and you see through turbulence
the struts and buttresses

granite and shale holding up the pounding of dropping water
the skeletal arches cradling

the pounding heart and still peer with the unchanged look of a wordless
infant watching

now with words across time where air and water and stone
become ideas

a woman writes philosophy where elements of truth and ethics,
the construction of worlds, are ideas

living off the page as real as the water falling and the mists rising
here capturing light

where surgent waters have cut away the earth
we sit centuries below the surface.

There’s light and reflection, sound and respite from sound
and a moment’s pause together.

The silver-bottomed leaves of the nearby willows turn to tell us more
about the mists and breezes that pass

as if all the lives that have made us packed into the helixes
of our genes come unsprung

dozens of relatives are watching us murmuring questions
in many languages the rabbi

the pharmacist from Minsk the dime-store merchant from Brooklyn
the venetian blind maker from Jersey

all with held breaths perplexed trying to explain
the origins of this scholar

who has hiked through a gorge with her father in Tennessee—
oh child.

 

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About Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis
Owen Lewis’s poetry has appeared in The Adirondack Review, Peregrine, and The Performing Arts Review. His honors include an award in the Pat Scheider Poetry Prize of The Amherst Writers and Artists Press. He is co-author, with composer Seymour Bernstein, of New Pictures At An Exhibition, a multimedia work of piano composition, poetry, and art published by Manduca Music. This work has had numerous concert performances. Also a child psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and a professor at Columbia University, Owen Lewis has published extensively in professional journals on child and adolescent psychotherapy and works as well in the area of school reform and access to mental health care. His debut collection of poetry is March In San Miguel (Finishing Line Press, 2012).