In Praise of Water

3677-LhotsaRiverCamp

the bears and Yeats would know _ Roethke

I have gone to the river many times,

to the slow waters that curl among their stones

With absolute certainty, to the small voices,

That emerge from the granite’s fissures, whispers

Of the deep pool below the falls, ripples

That pulsate outward, like the blind

Feeling their way through the dark, the first word

Beginning to form, the primal word

Beneath all languages, the utterance of snow,

The silence lurking in the cedars,

The unseen map of the otter’s journey.

 

Was it a bear that I saw one night

Sliding downhill on a cardboard sled

Toward the county dump? He too belongs

To those older waters, to the bog

Teeming with scents at the base of the mind,

The ice on which one ventures out

 

Cautiously, one step at a time,

to those lonely rivers that wonder through cornfields

Like drunks, seeking a passage to the sea,

To the bones that litter the prairies of the Dakotas

Where the wind moans, causing the ghosts

Of Sioux ponies to lift their heads.

 

I know I love best the small

Brooks that come down from alpine meadows

After Winter’s low ebb, wildflowers in bloom

Beside their banks, headwaters of the Colorado

And the Missouri, the trout in them iridescent

As lost jewels. I can sit here for hours

without a thought, watching the water pass by.

A part of me goes out with it.

It might as well be my soul is water.

 

Already it has gone many miles!

Flowing on into the orchards of the lowlands

Whose pale blossoms drift on the current

Like those that once filled the funeral barge

Of an unknown king.

 

By Jay Griswold

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