top of page

Travis Stephens

By The Chippewa River

the end of the bottle

the end of the evening

the start to a serious decline.

We are cousins, sort of,

used to standing around,

quiet, beer bottled in hand,

staring into a fire burn, watch

a river sweep by taking stick,

leaves, the rest of the day.

Damn that water looks cold.

Kids dig worms out of

the grass & nobody wants

to make dinner.

This a remembrance

because the body got planted

in faraway Texas & yet

everybody wants to honor

the one who got away.

The men wear T-shirts &

gimme caps, the women in

summer dresses. I am

overdressed in khakis,

upwind from cigarettes.

Remember when he….

damn, that was crazy.

But not as crazy as side-swiping

a concrete pillar at 70

miles an hour, sparks & smoke &

a Chevy pickup shorn of two wheels.

His daughter said they found

his pistol inside the truck but he

was thrown, saying “thrown” the

Texas way with extra syllables.

This is the sour mash

this is the decanted bile.

Vees of geese circle back

as if north were up for debate.

He played Tevye in “Fiddler”,

ironic, given his early flight

into the Air Force. A wife,

another. Nieces who never

met him sniffle in empathy.

His brothers recall a lively tongue,

rabbit punches, his eyes blue

like the river, blue in the sun

yet brown, tea brown &

colder underneath.

A few miles upstream the

Flambeau departs its wooded

cave to join the Chippewa

on its way to town. Last century

the spring log run knotted at
Holcombe, took the bridge,

took seven lives. A great- great-

grandson wrapped his truck

around a Texas bridge pillar.

This river has seen it all,

still sings in the rapids,

still heading south every day.

Travis Stephens is a tugboat captain who resides with his family in California. A graduate of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, recent credits include: GYROSCOPE REVIEW, 2RIVER, GRAVITAS, RAW ART REVIEW, CROSSWINDS POETRY JOURNAL, AMERICAN JOURNAL OF POETRY, SHEILA-NA-GIG, SKY ISLAND JOURNAL, and THE DEAD MULE SCHOOL OF SOUTHERN LITERATURE.

bottom of page