Dianne Stepp

photo by Barbara Michelman


Up Canyon from Maupin



We mill like strangers

by the river

where the turbulence

spends itself in shallow licks.


The air is oily with juniper

and sage, the skeletal

rattle of weeds

winter’s only hint.


You carry the box of your dad’s 

ashes to a table under a willow,

your sister, the album.


Across the river a train 

tears past.  A breeze

catches your sister’s hair,

twists a strand 

to a button on your shirt.


This is Virgil who loved fishing best.


Here he stands grinning 

with his rod at his favorite hole,

hitching his waders.


Here are the scooped tail fins,

gash of gills laid in a row.


And here he holds to the camera

a hand-tied bucktail caddis fly.


You read a poem about time

caught and locked in stone.

Your daughters look away,

perhaps embarrassed,

perhaps thinking of themselves


years hence, or thinking of the stars,

how they will hang

in dazzling clusters, how the moon

will alter the landscape to silver.


Someone finds a rock ledge

where the river plunges and bucks.

It takes the ashes slowly,

a milky swirl, a tail of white.


Dianne Stepp lives with her husband in Portland, Oregon.  Her poems have appeared in a variety of literary journals and anthologies. Her chapbook, “Half-Moon of Clay,” was published by Finishing Line Press.