Says the River to Her Patriarchy



to explain how
a tributary
becomes a river
there isn’t a way
but for the tributary
to deny it—
I deny
the very river
I deny the paying
of tribute
grow up, say
the men
in my life
men who
gave me life
when I am
already the river
I say
I am the river
I say
I am grown I say
to my rushing
I say
you will stay
until I’ve finished
my rushing




Author Carey Salerno is sitting outside with her arms crossedCarey Salerno is a poet and essayist. Her next book, Tributary, is forthcoming from Persea Books in April 2021. She is the author of Shelter (2009) and co-editor of Lit From Inside: 40 Years of Poetry from Alice James Books (2013) and the executive director and executive editor of Alice James Books. Read more at

This poem originally appeared in TLR’s Feverish issue.