by David Rensberger Issue: Spring/Summer 2019

Eight inches at its widest,

a half-inch deep, it flows

across the disused logging road

from its hillside spring,

then tumbles down toward Bee Branch,

too small even to splash or babble

unless I kneel down close,

and then I hear it.


Bee Branch goes rushing down

the mountain into Jones Creek

on the flat; Jones flows into

Bowers Creek by Deep Gap Road,

and that runs a long way,

gathering all kinds of water, to

the Nantahala, which carries

rafters and other life-forms,

and ends in the well-dammed

Little Tennessee, and then it’s

the Tennessee itself through three states

to the Ohio, the Mississippi, and the Gulf.


Yes, if I kneel I can hear it

trickling across the log-road,

running crystal clear from its

damp spot of a spring.

If you stuck a turbine in it, you couldn’t

light a bulb. And yet without it

something would have no way

of living—the insects that tap

across its surface, the moss that overhangs

its three-inch cascade to the road,

the grass-shoot in its middle,

the sprouts of cress along its edge.


It is everything a watercourse

should be, supporting countless

lives throughout its run

of thirty yards, bearing its tale

from the hillside down toward the sea.

And you—

are you so convinced

you’re doing any better?

David Rensberger

David Rensberger grew up on a farm in Indiana, and earned degrees from the University of Wisconsin and Yale University. He and his wife live in the suburbs of Atlanta, where he is retired from teaching at a seminary. They like to spend time in the mountains of north Georgia and western North Carolina, where “Tributary” was written. He has also had poems published recently in Arts and Relief.