The Archaeoetymologist Recovers Bliss from the Riverbed

As in darkness stooping in the alluvium
at the oxbow she remembered rubble,

days of rubble, her companion unearthing
a sword that had never tasted blood

blade engraved with lily of the valley
hilt of crystal inlaid with topaz

and opal scintillating—so the mislaid word
for this was lovelorn, an unknowing.

But to the water again, she a mudlarker
cradling bliss in her silty palm,

what comes to her is earthly satisfaction:
hay mown and stacked for thatching

the first chill of a sumac sun setting
the day’s work done and rough knuckles

tracing her belly’s silk doublings or
a storm beyond the horizon, still unknown

rasp of the arrow’s fletching, a fine wind
and the high ground—


Carolyn Oliver is the author of The Alcestis Machine (Acre Books, forthcoming 2024) and Inside the Storm I Want to Touch the Tremble (University of Utah Press, 2022), selected for the Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry. Her poems appear in three chapbooks and in The Massachusetts Review, Copper Nickel, Poetry DailyShenandoah, Beloit Poetry Journal, 32 Poems, Southern Indiana Review, At Length, Plume, and elsewhere. Carolyn lives in Massachusetts. Her website is

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