Knee deep in the Watauga’s
rock leaping whitewater,
my brother loses his balance,
his life if our father
doesn’t flail downstream swimming
the air, running the river,
tripping the stones to collar
his son gasping and coughing
onto a sandbar as he
confirms with tentative fingers
his empty back pocket.
We pace back and forth on the shoreline
down to the bridge, the other
bank before the sun finally
falls blurring the world into darkness,
my father not saying, don’t worry,
a life is priceless, not saying
something like that, not tousling
my brother’s hair and smiling.
For this is October. My father
believes he’ll be fired soon,
will face winter’s cold coming
without thirty-four washed-away dollars.