On Rivers

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On Rivers • Curated by Patryjca Humienik

Welcome to the “On Rivers” community anthology, curated by Editor-in-Chief Patrycja Humienik, featuring the work of eight writers. Below, you can see the original call for this anthology, which is what folks submitted their work to, as well as an editor’s note from Patrycja, which gives insight into the words, artwork, and pieces you will find in this anthology.

A river is a contested site. I return again and again to rivers, real and imagined. In “The First Water Is the Body,” Postcolonial Love Poem, Natalie Diaz writes, “Do you think the water will forget what we have done, what we continue to do?” The climate crisis is intensifying ongoing conflicts over water worldwide; as I write this, the Colorado River — about which Diaz writes — a crucial water source for the Mohave, Chemehuevi, Hopi, and Navajo peoples and seven states along its basin, is drought-stricken, with record-low current levels. Rivers have much to tell us about our bodies and the land. I bring the river questions; I want to know yours. I am curating an anthology engaging with rivers you know, rivers you love, rivers you’ve lost or imagined.

What rivers do you visit, on foot or in memory? What rivers do you invent?

The Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish wrote in “XV” (translated by Antoon): “You said: I used to invent love when necessary. When I walked alone on the riverbank. Or whenever the level of salt would rise in my body, I would invent the river.” 

In this issue, eight writers across genre take us to real and speculative rivers, where we are confronted with questions of lineage, longing, history, and the question of crossing. “There are so many prayers/ knifing through the blue,” writes Laura Da’. What is on the other side?

In “Sambatyon,” David Naimon writes, But even as they came together for the seder, it was as if they were on opposite sides of the river. They could not share their stories, they could not mourn their respective dead together.”

Since writing the call for this issue, the phrase “from the river to the sea,” has evoked rage from those who claim the demand for Palestinian freedom is violence, while turning away from the relentless violence of thousands dead and unburied, ongoingly, in Gaza. Still the river reaches for the sea, and these writers remind us to reach for one another.

I’ve since also moved back to the midwest, the region of my childhood, where I’m getting acquainted with rivers old and new to me. Climate change continues to wreak havoc on the Mississippi’s essential habitats, expanding the Gulf of Mexico’s hypoxic zone. “This land shaken once/ Again says the river,” writes W.T. Joshua, of Haiti and of the world.

Rivers and land speak to each other. Veins of the earth, holding memory. As Vanessa Angélica Villareal writes in “Memory, a Lacuna”: “The land is memory made material, and keeps record of every single one of us.” 

What do rivers remember and where do they invite us? I invite you to take your time with the rivers, questions, and longings in this issue.

Patrycja Humienik, Editor-in-Chief of “On Rivers”

  • All Posts
  • 1: Perception Gaps
  • 10: Willful Innocence
  • 11: Actionable Storytelling
  • 12: Before After
  • 13: Rebellious Joy
  • 14: Economies of Harm
  • 15: Root Systems
  • 16: Proximities
  • 17: The Cost of Waiting
  • 2: Labels
  • 3: Who Gets to Belong?
  • 4: You Are Politics
  • 5: Artificial Realities
  • 6: Dangerous Bodies
  • 7: In Opposition
  • 8: Power And
  • 9: What We Lose
  • Anthologies
  • Art
  • Audio
  • Bulletin
  • Drama
  • Film
  • Interview
  • Poetry
  • Prose
  • Uncategorized
    •   Back
    • Fiction
    • Nonfiction
SAMBATYON

David Naimon

There is a river, lost or hidden, that is impossible to pass six days each week.

Memory, a Lacuna

Vanessa Angélica Villarreal

My mother and grandmother were born in ‘the land of the lake,’ or La Comarca de la Laguna, a cradle of fertile land between the Sierra Madre mountain ranges in…

Tributary

W.T. Joshua

The year I meet granpa my hands mimic clouds. / Charybdis turning turpid pools / beneath his globes— vision I have awaited.

For the Gentleness of Our Leaving

Geffrey Davis

I started asking rivers to feed me as a child—literally, with flesh from fish, then figuratively, with flashes of comfort.

Two Poems

Laura Da'

The new year begins in winter white embroidery— / trumpeter swans and needle-slim herons piercing / drainage ditches.

notes on anticipation

ALHS

In this moment that has come to happen / in other moments, the notes / of birds nestled in my asking.

Headshot of Patrycja Humienik

Patrycja Humienik, daughter of Polish immigrants, is a writer, editor, teaching artist & performer currently based in Madison, WI. She serves as Events Director for The Seventh Wave, and an editor for TSW’s Community Anthologies project. She has developed writing and movement workshops for the Henry Art Gallery, Northwest Film Forum, Puksta Civic Engagement Foundation, prisons, and elsewhere. Her first book is forthcoming in winter 2025 with Tin House.

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