FIELD GUIDE TO SYCAMORE ISLAND, BLAWNOX, PA
For Rick Duncan and Allegheny Land Trust
By Mike Good
Morels break into damp spring light
past the three-trunked sycamore
on the channel-side where river traffic
flows, past the great blue heron nest
rising above the pebbled shore. Coal
barges tear silty loam and leave river
rocks for the Allegheny to hawk
and swallow, where turkey vultures sun
their wings like black crosses on electric
trees, where cedar waxwings trill
inside the Indian cigar tree. Scratched
spicebush potpourri. Orange
impatiens exploding. Do not live
like the wolf spiders in the storage silo
dining on tadpoles, never knowing
the dredge spoils that rise above the jet
skis and the fishing poles, never drinking
the sumac tea that boils into red paint or
holding the delta of green cottonwood
leaves that twist and conspire, never
rising with the ailanthus toward
the canopy sprouting neckbeards
about girdled cambium
as our island
itself down the river.
open my eyes and peel
grapevines off softwood.
I could break down
at any second.
I could smell acrid water
pouring from the discharge.
I could see
myself burning in the sky.
I could have been an eagle.
Mike Good’s recent writing can be found at or is forthcoming from Adroit, december, Forklift, OH, Rattle, Salamander, Sugar House Review, The Georgia Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Ploughshares blog, 32 Poems blog, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and elsewhere. He holds an M.F.A. from Hollins University and helps edit the After Happy Hour Review. He lives in Pittsburgh and works as a grant writer.