Poets and Poetry: With a Mississippi Walking Stick

April is National Poetry Month, so it seems fitting to share  the work of a few of our local poets each week.

Richard Stahl was born and raised in Davenport.  He graduated from Central High School in 1957 and later taught English there for 34 years.

His award-winning poems have been published  in many literary journals and appear in various anthologies. Mr. Stahl’s books include After the Milk Route (1988), Under the Green Tree Hotel (1996), and Mr. Farnam’s Guests (2004).

In 2001, Mr. Stahl was appointed the first Quad-City Poet Laureate, serving until 2003.

With a Mississippi Walking Stick*

This river’s rhythms live
inside my sfot pine
leg, a crooked
branch some backwater pulled
down, nearly drowning its face,
before hte current listed it, peeling
it clean as a cane. This driftwood ran
the channel until it grounded
In my hand
on Davenport’s levee,
but it remembers the bends
and twists and whirlpools
of the river. This stick teases
my shoulders
like the heady fizz
of a Mississippi Highball.
My fingers drink the sweep’s straight
handle again, the hold I need
to work my lungs and shoulders
and river legs. No part of this stick
is straight. Some twists puff
into knots. The bark has been skinned off
for easier handling. As I walk back
to The Green Tree Hotel
asn wader
ten feet away,
the bottom
noses down, closing
its fork
like a divining rod,
driving me
back to the river
and The Hotel
to wait
for my next berth.

*From Under the Green Tree Hotel

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