Near Kansas City, With My Son & Bones

There’s something like a river in the road 

a father takes with his son, a current 

that only flows forward, yet circles

back to bones—a fathomless history

that passes in an instant. & there is 

something like a river in the way a father 

points out childhood monuments,

the landscape of old bones, farmhouses 

folding in on themselves, fence posts kneeling  

down as if to lay among the dandelions.

Then, a rapture—a clamorous moment 

when the son sees something like four horses

or a cow at pasture, a mythology he has read about

but not directly witnessed. So, as if possessed 

by the spirit of story, my son tells me

there is a bearded vulture in India that lives

almost exclusively on bones, that is known 

to roll on the earth & paint its feathers with it.

I know what he is saying: that our history becomes

a part of us, like a scar that is tattooed

on our spine. The road slopes downward 

& the earth lifts up to swallow it. 

Suddenly, our little rented minivan becomes a bird 

in flight. There’s a moment where we could claim the sky, 

or ride on the shoulders of the wind. 

But the thing about being a bird 

is that eventually you have to come down.

& the thing about a river is that it’s never the same 

river twice. So, the minivan pulls into a driveway 

I have never seen, & we hug someone 

who looks strange, moon-faced, like a man does 

when he’s diagnosed with cancer.

But the thing about a father is that he’s always 

there, even though he moves sluggishly

or uses the arm of a walker to lean down,

to pull a golden dandelion from the ground,

& to slip it in my son’s chest pocket. 

On the way to the airport, we pause 

at the longest river in the country, which exists

between two separate states. In its depths, I imagine, 

are bones of amphibians, ribs of old wooden boats. 

As we start to wade in, I am suddenly gripped 

by an overwhelming fear & sadness.

There is something like a road in a river

where a son can take the lead. Fast

as the current goes, he laughs. So, I laugh.

& our toes slowly sink into the sand.

Seth Peterson, a man in a grey shirt, sitting on a brown leather couch with his hands clasped. A potted plant is visible in the background.

Seth Peterson is an emerging writer, researcher, and physical therapist in Tucson, Arizona. His poems are published or forthcoming in Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Pirene’s Fountain, and elsewhere. He serves as an Associate Editor for JOSPT Cases and teaches nationally with The Movement Brainery.