As always, we speak in
barely-threaded whorls
coiling toward the next
distant glint, the next
ether –no matter how
faintly it glows– and we
grip what reins we can
hold, but our speech slips the bridle,
intent on its own agency, its own
joyous digression,
keeping its range as it
loops and loops       the way the
Mississippi starts as a stream with
no hint of eventual breadth
or meander, until its tributaries
part and braid their scattered ways,
quadrupling, and quadrupling again, only to
reconvene on the downstream
side of the sandbars and
twine themselves back into one
unit, one broad
valley full of that same
water, the river finally
existing in a single delta,
yielding itself to an alluvial
zone where sometimes we drown,
                             sometimes learn to swim.

LouAnn Shepard Muhm is a poet and teacher from northern Minnesota. Her poems have appeared in Antiphon, Alba, Red River Review, Eclectica, Pirene’s Fountain, and CALYX, among other journals and anthologies, and she was a finalist for the Creekwalker Poetry Prize and the Late Blooms Postcard Series. Muhm is a recipient of Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grants in Poetry in 2006 and 2012, and has been featured twice in the “What Light” poetry sponsored by the McKnight Foundation and the Walker Art Museum. Her full-length poetry collection Breaking the Glass (Loonfeather Press, 2008) was a finalist for the Midwest Book Award in Poetry. Muhm is currently pursuing her MFA at Sierra Nevada College.