The remains were raised by the Mississippi—an old song in shards.
Was it burned by accident? Or captured when New Orleans was,
run up to Yazoo River to escape Union hands, ashore in a bend?
Lincoln so wanted to roll unvexed to the sea.
Muted pitches in an old steamboat, its firebox is a gaping mouth
for coal. The river has the last say.
Each Natchez meant more bales, more boilers. There was no music
like the Natchez’s whistle. Heard was the length of the open
valve, vibration in steam—not air but rising steam rarefying in the bell.
But music doesn’t give out any answers.
The steam’s been gone. No one’s bragging on the Race of the Giants
or Captain Leathers anymore. The floating palace, wood rot come up
for air. The river is the last say.
Heather Dobbins is a native of Memphis, Tennessee. She is the author of two poetry collections, In the Low Houses (2014) and River Mouth (2017), both from Kelsay Press. She graduated from the College Scholars program at the University of Tennessee and earned her M.F.A. from Bennington College. Her poems and poetry reviews have been published in Beloit Poetry Journal, Fjords, The Rumpus, TriQuarterly Review, and Women’s Studies Quarterly, among others. For twenty years, she has worked as an educator (Kindergarten through college) in Oakland, California; Memphis, Tennessee; and currently, Fort Smith, Arkansas. Please see heatherdobbins.net for more.