Weekly Feature: Poetry at The Arts Fuse

Welcome to “Poetry at The Arts Fuse.” A new poem, every Thursday.

The Map

Mississippi River Meander Belt #7, Mississippi River Commission, 1944


Blues, greens, oranges, and reds shade

the paths across a vintage map of The Mississippi,

a birthday gift. Backswamps and braided streams

loop the river channels thousands-of-years old,

a cacophony of overlapping streams

whirling with its tangled beauty.


To look at it is to study the past lives of waters,

the meanders: the way water cuts a groove

in the earth and changes it forever.

The river’s ghosts snake and bend over time.

It is lovely. Alluvial. The memory of a mighty river


At its heart: a jumble of coils and purls

that shapes the soil, constantly repairing the landscape.

A repository for memory preserving a shared moment

as when two people have loved each other well

the topography transforms, diverges over time, cleaves

a clearer path to where it was always meant to go.


January Gill O’Neil is an associate professor at Salem State University, and the author of Glitter Road (forthcoming, 2024) Rewilding (2018), Misery Islands (2014), and Underlife (2009), all published by CavanKerry Press. From 2012 to 2018, she was the executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. The recipient of fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Cave Canem, and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, O’Neil was the 2019-2020 John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi. She currently serves as the 2022-2023 board chair of the Association of Writers and Writers Programs (AWP).

Note: Hey poets! We seek submissions of excellent poetry from across the length and breadth of contemporary poetics. See submission guidelines here. The arbiter of the feature is the magazine’s poetry editor, John Mulrooney.

Arts Fuse editor Bill Marx


  1. Jennifer Martelli on April 27, 2023 at 3:01 pm

    Love this poem & all of your Mississippi poems!

  2. Dimitri Reyes on April 28, 2023 at 10:37 am

    This is a poem that continues to take my breath away!

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