Into the Dusk-Charged Air
Far from the Rappahannock, the silent Danube moves along toward the sea. The brown and green Nile rolls slowly Like the Niagara's welling descent. Tractors stood on the green banks of the Loire Near where it joined the Cher. The St. Lawrence prods among black stones And mud. But the Arno is all stones. Wind ruffles the Hudson's Surface. The Irawaddy is overflowing. But the yellowish, gray Tiber Is contained within steep banks. The Isar Flows too fast to swim in, the Jordan's water Courses over the flat land. The Allegheny and its boats Were dark blue. The Moskowa is Gray boats. The Amstel flows slowly. Leaves fall into the Connecticut as it passes Underneath. The Liffey is full of sewage, Like the Seine, but unlike The brownish-yellow Dordogne. Mountains hem in the Colorado And the Oder is very deep, almost As deep as the Congo is wide. The plain banks of the Neva are Gray. The dark Saône flows silently. And the Volga is long and wide As it flows across the brownish land. The Ebro Is blue, and slow. The Shannon flows Swiftly between its banks. The Mississippi Is one of the world's longest rivers, like the Amazon. It has the Missouri for a tributary. The Harlem flows amid factories And buildings. The Nelson is in Canada, Flowing. Through hard banks the Dubawnt Forces its way. People walk near the Trent. The landscape around the Mohawk stretches away; The Rubicon is merely a brook. In winter the Main Surges; the Rhine sings its eternal song. The Rhône slogs along through whitish banks And the Rio Grande spins tales of the past. The Loir bursts its frozen shackles But the Moldau's wet mud ensnares it. The East catches the light. Near the Escaut the noise of factories echoes And the sinuous Humboldt gurgles wildly. The Po too flows, and the many-colored Thames. Into the Atlantic Ocean Pours the Garonne. Few ships navigate On the Housatonic, but quite a few can be seen On the Elbe. For centuries The Afton has flowed. If the Rio Negro Could abandon its song, and the Magdalena The jungle flowers, the Tagus Would still flow serenely, and the Ohio Abrade its slate banks. The tan Euphrates would Sidle silently across the world. The Yukon Was choked with ice, but the Susquehanna still pushed Bravely along. The Dee caught the day's last flares Like the Pilcomayo's carrion rose. The Peace offered eternal fragrance Perhaps, but the Mackenzie churned livid mud Like tan chalk-marks. Near where The Brahmaputra slapped swollen dikes And the Pechora? The São Francisco Skulks amid gray, rubbery nettles. The Liard's Reflexes are slow, and the Arkansas erodes Anthracite hummocks. The Paraná stinks. The Ottawa is light emerald green Among grays. Better that the Indus fade In steaming sands! Let the Brazos Freeze solid! And the Wabash turn to a leaden Cinder of ice! The Marañón is too tepid, we must Find a way to freeze it hard. The Ural Is freezing slowly in the blasts. The black Yonne Congeals nicely. And the Petit-Morin Curls up on the solid earth. The Inn Does not remember better times, and the Merrimack's Galvanized. The Ganges is liquid snow by now; The Vyatka's ice-gray. The once-molten Tennessee's Curdled. The Japurá is a pack of ice. Gelid The Columbia's gray loam banks. The Don's merely A giant icicle. The Niger freezes, slowly. The interminable Lena plods on But the Purus' mercurial waters are icy, grim With cold. The Loing is choked with fragments of ice. The Weser is frozen, like liquid air. And so is the Kama. And the beige, thickly flowing Tocantins. The rivers bask in the cold. The stern Uruguay chafes its banks, A mass of ice. The Hooghly is solid Ice. The Adour is silent, motionless. The lovely Tigris is nothing but scratchy ice Like the Yellowstone, with its osier-clustered banks. The Mekong is beginning to thaw out a little And the Donets gurgles beneath the Huge blocks of ice. The Manzanares gushes free. The Illinois darts through the sunny air again. But the Dnieper is still ice-bound. Somewhere The Salado propels its floes, but the Roosevelt's Frozen. The Oka is frozen solider Than the Somme. The Minho slumbers In winter, nor does the Snake Remember August. Hilarious, the Canadian Is solid ice. The Madeira slavers Across the thawing fields, and the Plata laughs. The Dvina soaks up the snow. The Sava's Temperature is above freezing. The Avon Carols noiselessly. The Drôme presses Grass banks; the Adige's frozen Surface is like gray pebbles. Birds circle the Ticino. In winter The Var was dark blue, unfrozen. The Thwaite, cold, is choked with sandy ice; The Ardèche glistens feebly through the freezing rain.
From The Mooring of Starting Out: The First Five Books of Poems, published by The Ecco Press, 1997. Used with permission.
John Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York, on July 28, 1927.
Date Published: 1997-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/dusk-charged-air