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"The Dnieper" by Alan Walowitz

The Dnieper

       The Dnieper, also called Dnipro, is one of the

       major transboundary rivers of Europe, rising

       in the Valdai Hills near Smolensk, Russia,

       before flowing through Belarus and Ukraine

       to the Black Sea.


When the river was young, my grandfather

swam the width of it from shore to shore—

on a dare, it was said. Though I have on good authority

there was a kopek at stake—

and he was called to task by his father,

for whom I am named.

Any son of mine, he said—and there were four,

so he might know of sons and how they dream.


To be properly shamed—

that trait runs deep in me

and has hardly been leavened by generations.

Though you might find some abandoned hope,

if you watch the way I withhold my sighs

as my young unfurl their unlikely plans.

But never, I warn them, swim a river on a bet,

though, maybe, I admit, when fleeing the Tsar.


We have been strangers wherever we land,

having turned up often in unfortunate times,

dubious circumstance.

As it had been for those

who dipped their heads in the Dnieper’s wake

that now smells tainted

from the false promise of dreams:

once on the other shore, we hoped

we would be feted for our daring,

or, at least, on our way toward being free.

Alan Walowitz

Alan Walowitz is a contributing editor at Verse-Virtual. The Story of the Milkman and Other Poems is available from Truth Serum Press. Chapbooks include In the Muddle of the Night, written with poet Betsy Mars (Arroyo Seco Press, 2021), and The Poems of the Air (Red Wolf Editions, 2023), which is downloadable for free.



Alan Walowitz
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