The poems in Where Is the River Called Pishon? explore the desire for spiritual belonging in everyday life. The title refers to the River Pishon, named in the second creation story in Genesis. The title poem begins,
Who are these people? When did they arrive?
Did they come on the same boat as you and I?
Did they coalesce from dew and dust, fall as feathers from the sky?
The rest of the book responds to those questions.
The work is divided into five sections: Husks, Penumbra, Valentine, All My Life, and The Poplars of August, moving through views of self, family, marriage, society, and spirit.
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Praise for Where Is the River Called Pishon?
David Ruekberg’s poems engage the domestic and natural spheres to encounter the elemental forces that drive us: love, grief, despair and hope. “Dirt and instructions” coalesce and point to answers not given but suggested, offer “somewhere to overnight/before rain, and winter,” promise love as surrender, “and no one asking questions.” Where Is the River Called Pishon? is an irresistible book that asks to be read and read again.
—Pablo Medina, author of The Floating Island (poems) and Cubop City Blues (a novel), and other works, including an acclaimed translation of Lorca’s Poet in New York.
David Ruekberg’s probing debut collection renders the world for readers, in many senses of the word. His poems distill experience to concrete moments of “magnolia blossom. . .Dutch Catholic schoolgirls. . .traffic’s wreathed whine.” They also present a world in flux. Past and present, creation and destruction coexist: a “half-world below heaven,” where “the species will follow all species…it will die out”; where “The law commands the cells’ bloom/ in the body, light’s intercourse with matter, the ions’ banquet/ of rust.” Ruekberg marvels at it all, even at questions about the meaning of existence: “History is the ultimate act of faith. Plant an atom in darkness/and you sow a cosmos.” By turns playful and solemn, the poems are generous invitations to consider the origins of life and its inevitable ends, to remember the fact that, at least sometimes, “everything murmurs and winks, as if holy.”
—Tracy Youngblom, author of Growing Big, Driving to Heaven, and One Bird a Day
Thanks to the following journals in which these poems first appeared:
88: “The Ballad of Frankie and Shiva”
Border Crossing: “The Salamander’s Oath”
The Comstock Review: “Prisoner”
Ibbetson Street: “The Masseuse: To a Dancer”
Lake Affect Magazine: “Dew Point”
Mudfish 14: “Central Park: April”
North American Review: “Valentine”
Poet Lore: “Waiting Room”
The Coil/Alternating Current Press: “About,” “Along Oatka Creek Road”
Yankee Magazine: “Husks”
Cover: “Earth 17.” Quilt by Janet Schultz, Flagstaff, AZ. I am grateful to the artist for permission to use her work. (Email available on request.)
First published in August, 2018, by Kelsay Press.
Author photo: Tonya Kostenko