PoetryIssue 22 | April 2015

Outside Ngaoundere

by Aaron Brown

—after Dante

While driving above the valley, along a rut
    of road, I saw the river dropping into an abyss—
    couldn’t gaze below for the trees, the thickly woven

curtain of brush and millet stalks, but knowing I must
    find a way, must find the place where the falling river
    meets the earth, I searched until the gateway revealed

its mouth to me, the break in the growth through which
    the steam rose, and I heard the roar somewhere down
    its muddy path, the path I stumbled down for an hour,

slipping on rock and root, sliding when I lost my
    footing, the sludge chuckling at my feeble attempts
    to resist—I hardly had the time to stand before

I saw that I had emerged onto a steep bank,
    and there before me was the whirlpool, the cloud
    of mist that hissed a warning to those who approached,

and its wall of falling water, coming down as if from sky.
    I felt my way along the pool’s edge, where the foam,
    once churned, now came to collect on my soaked shoes.

I risked submersion but for the promise of land—
    a peninsula breaking out from the cliff, into the roar
    of the water. Climbing, I crept up this risen island,

this rock of two trees, broken baskets, abandoned shoe;
    this rock of effrontery firmly fixed in swirls
    lapping its sides, reaching for my ankles.

In the midst of the steam, the roar, the water
    that somehow rained yet remained the same,
    I stood and found myself in its center.

About the author

Aaron Brown grew up in northern Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, and now calls the Washington, DC area home, though he’s not quite sure what that means. He is the author of the novella Bound (2012) and the poetry chapbook Winnower (2013). His work can be found in The Portland Review, Warscapes, and Windhover, among others.

Read our current issue:


Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok