Edited and introduced by Gibson Fay-LeBlanc.

A poem teaches us how to understand its meaning through our senses. Some poems require more time of us as readers. They require and reward multiple readings. Two qualities that help persuade me to put in the necessary time to grapple with such a poem are a skillful use of sound and a strong feeling that, even if I don’t know exactly what it is, something vital is at stake in the poem.

In our poem this week, the volume of the words is turned up a little higher, and part of its force is that combination of sound and our dawning realization of what the poem shows us.

“Belo Monte” comes to us from a Maine carpenter and writer who goes by the pen name Peleg Held. The title of the poem refers to a controversial dam under construction in the northern part of Brazil — it has been criticized by the indigenous people of that region and by environmentalists around the world for the impact it will have on the rainforest.

Here, the poet imagines the river set free.

Belo Monte


By Peleg Held

River, in this slipshod night,

return, dark, to the hills.

Leave the great dam naked

drying in the torchline suns.

Out from the trees


murmur of sparsile fevers

unconstellated, faces of the forest

gone to fire, come-to calling

cleft from seam, spike and shaker

sharing dreams of breach and flow—

between each mad-sledge


swing a singing

from without the walls

of passage and a leveling.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. This column is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2016 Peleg Held. It appears here by permission of the author.

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