Saturday, July 5, 2008


a photograph is barely a reminder
the sun does not touch your face
you and the river are not breathing
the same air
and you’ll never know
what the photographer left out

whether she stepped in from silence
and miles of valley or the sound
of a leaf blower from the million dollar
house up on the hill

wood smoke, incense of a cedar?
or smell of sewage, rotten apples
fishermen stabbing the river with their poles


(flows from a topknot
a cloud, the connecting ice, a dam
flows from a pipeline, broken egg, a womb)

not just another one of your clean, unencumbered designs
but upwellings, backwashes, crinkles, folds
intricacies and lusters
saltation and exultation

all shine and dread at times, shifting greens
today the Sacramento is open, carefree, with a sound
of children scuffing through the autumn leaves


--just a way for the water to get down
forest-green, mint and white
the river, patterned runner

a coming together
waters poured into waters

intertwining flows
it’s a braided river-rope

a roar in place,
freight train shrieking by out of tune

American dipper beneath the railroad bridges
chubby, blinking a white eye


--cottonwoods by the river
always a hint of darkness to the leaves
as if keeping tragedy in view
through sunlight and eclipse
nothing carried to excess or ecstasy
a periodic cotton elation


listen carefully, he said
a rhythm has to beat somewhere in the music
but the water

overflows the pool and falls
divided, overflows the stone
clearly in small arcs
falls white in foam

one continuous exhalation


--hearing things
Though alone, I hear
my husband’s voice
say my name by the waterfall
and look to where my son is safe
down among the cliffs and rocks

“between insane and wise
there is no double yellow line?”


where white curtains empty themselves
on the rocks in a white splash shadow

a dipper’s hunched on white legs
whistle tuned
for strident battle with the water


cream with pink edges
the failing porcelain
of a rose

opulent dahlias
staked in strict rows

wood smoke
rotting apples and
incense from a cedar

heavy as iron, the river
sliding its hardware beneath the bridge
dark conveyor belt, ferrying
the cottonwoods’ leaves
big, yellow, generous hearts


--spring transport
to the McCloud river, early
sinking over the boot tops into snow--

dark Cadillac of the water, opulent
black rose over the falls


always the smell of sewage by the river
the Sacramento flows over its stones
like a yellow bottle

the alder
trailing a hand in the water

sitting in its shade
feel the tributaries of air

seen through the foliage
an entering creek--
falling water, relentlessly down

the cliff--
stone down to the road

an apple, red-cheeked on one side
bobs and whirls, leisurely at first
sudden acceleration through
the eddies, a fast ride away


the Sacramento in dips and standing waves
following a watercourse

the river constantly leaves itself behind at the banks
gets lost in the white stones


--High flows
Gray-green, business efficient
Trucking the rainstorm back to sea

Around the curves they bend as one
Tossing white horns--the waves


inexperienced in rivers
and noticing the white streamers
I used to think the water was flowing in the other

charging up, I suppose,
the staircase of rolled river stones
up through Dunsmuir alongside the track
past the loop, hissing up
between the bookcases
of the green-gray cliffs
through the turbine
back behind the dam
Lake Siskiyou overflowing
into the mountains


all the preparation: nurturing, upbringing, schooling
and then I didn’t become anything

painstaking placement
on a journey without destination

(study for the other world?)
(long preparation for fading away?)

burned to a white ash, my hair
my skin sizzles when you touch it (and then so cold)
my life, lately, has been a returning

back to first things
which are also last things—

sunlight on the steps
(stabs of joy in the belly)

backwards river

It’s been a long preparation for the return


farmlady said...

All right, you finally made me cry on this last one.

Just remember that you became a wonderful poet and a good human being. All the education and preparation in the world can't train you for that.

I felt this one.

farmlady said...

I keep re-reading it.

Go for the "stabs of joy in the belly" and find those "backwards" rivers again.

castlewon said...

Oh yeah. It's all good. (Told you I love rivers too.)