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Robert BIy 5 WALKING THE MISSISSIPPI SHORE AT ROCK ISLAND, ILLINOIS / Robert BIy I climb down from the bridge and cross some tracks. The shore. Westward the black railway bridge makes short hops over the river. It is an iron toad, hopping before the rose sky of sunset. The riverbank is confused with drifted leaves, chill, the sand cold in late October. On the bank I see a dried-out fish. A sturgeon... It is stiff, all its sudden motion gone. I pick it up.... Its speckled nose bone leads back to the eyesocket... and behind that there is a dark hole where the gills once were. So the darkness enters just behind the head, the darkness under the bunched leaves, the soothing darkness ten feet down in sand, the pine tree by the roadhouse, that holds all of the humans' night in one needle.... The sweet dark of the hunchback's dreams, where he is straight and whole again, and the earth is flat and crooked. A virgin brings out four black stones for him from beneath her cloak. Behind the gill opening the scales go on toward the tail. The scales are dry, swift, organized, tubular, straight and humorless as railway schedules, the big clamp of the box car, tapering into sleek womanly death. ...


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