River of Woman

By Kelsey Bryan-Zwick

By John Gardiner

Sometimes trails of loneliness
lead to switchbacks
where the snow pack is long gone
and the lichen’s dry as a jaw-bone
baking in ultraviolet sun.
Heaps of scree fill your boots
with volcanic sand,
and the blasted isolation’s
more stifling than the Kalahari
under a murderous flame.

All these hot-dry years
with no river of woman
to slake your thirst,
all these lonesome nights
staring at the goddess in the moon,
waiting for the last dance.

Published by The Comstock Review, 25th Anniversary Commemorative, 2011


  1. Great poem! Your first line is like an open gate; the following lines lead us into the “trails of loneliness” imposing on us the extremes: “switchbacks” where there are “lichen’s dry as a jaw-bone,” “heaps of scree,” “and the blasted Isolation’s more stifling than the Kalahari/ under a murderous flame.” I feel an exclamation point in your words. Just wonderful. Then the whole last stanza, too, is beautifully visual–lonely in a wilderness where one might die–or seem to. I really enjoyed reading it.

  2. I accidentally posted the comment above under David Groves name (my boyfriend). The post starting with “Great poem! Your first line…” was from me, Claire Koehler. Sorry about that.

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