River Sonnet

Water levels have bled out,
like it had just bitten its lip
& was about to swell— then rip:
had I paid better attention to drought,
listened more to the stars and stayed
with mountain clouds, I’d have let go
of the knot swing hanging above the slow
life flow beneath my legs, I’d have prayed

to forget all the times he came to me
but not wanted me: how fast it rises,
carrying plumes of pang in undercurrent:
swirls of sediment & silt around my knees—
the dragging stalks and leaves of irises,
how pathetic they look breaking in torrent—

Related Poems

River to River

          After Jen Bervin / After Quan Barry

River spidering across the wall, sailing 
through the air. River flashing with silver 
sequins fastened to sunbeams. River always 
in pieces, a torn ribbon streaming everywhere.
River carving out a canyon through the years, 
seen from a sudden grassy overlook, 
an old bridge, a new shoreline, endlessly
crossing and recrossing our lives. River 
this winter with sixteen eagles alert 
and searching. River unfrozen and pooling 
around the ankles of trees in springtime, 
daring us closer. River asleep inside 
the black night like a spent lover, 
dreaming of being a chandelier of rain, 
first velvet wet drops on bare skin. Go, 
go on. Conveyor belt of clouds, destroyer 
and preserver of towns, longest breath 
of the earth, tell us what floating means 
to you. Some trees are weeping, river. 
Speak of all you carry and carry off
in river song and river silence. Be horse, 
be ferry, carry us from now to next to. 
River, I’m done with fading shadows. 
Give me daylight broken and scattered
across your fluid transparent face, 
come meet me with the moon and the stars 
running and tumbling along your sides. 
River swinging open like a gate to the sea,
time’s no calendar of months, you say,
but water in the aftermath of light.  
Your drifting cargo tells us everything 
arrives from far away and long ago 
and ends in the body, boat of heartache 
and ecstasy we pilot, in quest of passage also. 
River we call Mississippi or Mekong, 
sing us forth to nowhere but here, 
with your perfect memory be our flood.

Willow Poem

It is a willow when summer is over,
a willow by the river
from which no leaf has fallen nor
bitten by the sun
turned orange or crimson.
The leaves cling and grow paler,
swing and grow paler
over the swirling waters of the river
as if loath to let go,
they are so cool, so drunk with
the swirl of the wind and of the river—
oblivious to winter,
the last to let go and fall
into the water and on the ground.

The Outlet (162)

My river runs to thee:  
Blue sea, wilt welcome me?  
   
My river waits reply.  
Oh sea, look graciously!  
   
I'll fetch thee brooks
From spotted nooks,—  
   
Say, sea,  
Take me!