I am standing at the riverside
I watch the snowmelt cascade through the valley,
No fishing in that torrent today; but we will hunt in the woods,
smell the musky dark and green of the place
where forest-dwellers stir from deepest slumber;
their rumbling bellies
with an ache for lime-green-bud.
Across the water, churned vapours billow,
the roar of tumbling water drowns a blackbirds’ chorus,
On the far side, a lingering brume hangs above the shore;
A chill bristles hair as sun clears mountain-heights:
Paint sky cerulean, there on Eden’s thighs—
The river flows …
By-and-by, I dream of ancient friends and foes.
I wonder at her grace; On her hip, a child—
In a world of scarcity few-words suffice:
I call her ‘wife’ and he is ‘son-of’
And darkness (or terror) are named ‘god’
I am sitting at the water’s edge.
A lazy sparkle lolls across the widest course,
There are boats on the water now, and men casting nets—
See the dazzling flicker of their catch caught amidst the weave;
Mulatto arms are strong and women smile from shore—
, fastening tiny knots, string intricate patterns
into sturdy kits;
Ready the fish to carry to fire!
On the breeze, smell them cooking; Be hungry, hungry-Man!
Across the fluid languid flow, beside bent willow
(While falcon soar above)
a steady plume,
hut into heaven
(Where the wispy spirits bless us all!)
There, on the far-side, on the earth below,
a misty haze hangs in the littoral obscuring vision,
I pass as a single cloud casting briefest shadow
on bristling hair,
There, across the water—
What’s that amidst the shimmered air?
A figure standing lone?
The river knows…
I came down to the river
(How did you know I would?)
I sit with my legs tucked up
watching the boats to-and-fro,
I came back to the river
(You knew I would return!)
I will fish all day, regardless,
dreaming of something to eat, though
my basket remains empty,
I will snooze in the sunshine
as my line flinches imperceptibly—
unaware of interest: This slow
erosion of slimy flesh until
the hook is emptied; While spittle
gathers at the corner of my mouth
I am Sleeping…
Crouched by the brazier’s glow at hearthside,
A whip-poor-will’s sweetest finale before darkness falls,
The sapid scent of roasting meat by barter’s hard-won haggle:
Fishes for lamb,
Our table laden, replete;
the great feast before snows…
New-wine flows—a cheerful repast as gathering storms grumble
across a lowering sky,
We sing and tell tales:
How the Ancients, who brought us to the river,
knew well the passing of all things, And we are thankful!
We break bread, we cut rounds of cheese that aged in chilled air,
Go down to the river as last-light quickly fades,
See across the water how tenebrous shadows gather…
Is that a single light amidst the creeping gloom?
A singularity, which bristles hair—
The river’s dark-snake ripples
about to strike;
Return to our company,
Forget that light.
The river flows …
And I sleep with them.
We, gathered close, our bellies full,
who dream of shorter days and empty snares,
A bow raised; An aimless arrow takes flight
but snags a passing god who falls
striking earth with angered light
a single crash that splits the night!
Fire embers crumble and diminish into grey, lightless dust,
A cold wind ***** the last warmth
into a sky so clear—
Moonlit sparkles on crystal carpets of deepest white,
On frozen earth and water, All sleeping...
cradles newborns... Sleeping… Dreaming;
Your time will come, Little
In the village,
by the icy river,
the world is yours:
(Though no light shines in frosted panes)
Tomorrow, ay, tomorrow!
O Father, who rules the sky, hallowed
be thy name, Thy dominion shored by surety
may be but castles in vacant air and leave no rack behind.
Someone has peeked into my dreams, I rise,
Compelled: The river ever calls,
Wrapped in fine Gabardine
I stand at its edge
watching the far-side,
I hear a distant muffled bawl,
What did it say?
“What keeps you?”
Am I in its thrall?
The river knows …
The river, ever generous.
We honour those spirits
and cherish lucid waters,
We call you ‘aqua vitae.’
We, joined by ancient cord,
(When rope was jute:
Connecting all things)
raise this pantheism from dirt and stone
astride the isthmus
The River flows, below.
And then, I dreamed of Madame Seurat
shaded beneath her parasol,
Such a beautiful day, and her monkey—
He really is quite adorable, Comment chic!
But don’t lie too close, lazy boy
The vista pixilates and understanding
disintegrates into charm-less pastel points…
Not that I was ever sure why you were here,
Madame et Monsieur, and that playful dog
I suspect is a coprophagist, mon dieu!
So much for good taste and high society!
There’s a well-structured equality
in dream analysis, Symbolic hierarchies
are towers reaching into Enlightenment:
Tell me more of what you’ve seen.
She’s watching as he indolently rolls…
(Unnoticed, the rod slips from his grasp)
She’s admiring the ***** torso and that
a Roman profile, skin as soft as
She’s waiting for the instance
when he reveals the nature of his dreaming,
that moment will force a blush
and cause her to turn away…
She holds her breath…
His sangfroid is intoxicating!
(There was a catch on the line,
but the moment passes and the fish is free)
You’re off track, sleepy boy
Please, try to stay on topic.
“Seriously?” he says. “I’m dreaming.
Why do you require clarity
at this point?”
Ok. Just tell me what you see.
He sighs …
I’ve seen it all, Father. Every moment
as fresh as the last; And I always wonder,
How it is that, though I remember everything
up the ***** and around its bends,
anything down the valley is a mystery?
A dream I cannot recall!
Beyond the end of the island, passed
the dozen effigies of Madame Seurat
or the steamboat, or the *****-less fours
I can dream it all:
Around that crook…
The chivalrous old man at his windmill tilts,
Further up the Fisherman prays
(If I lay back and watch Him
through the reeds,
from this angle,
it looks as though he’s walking on the water!)
I dream… he’s nailed hard to wood—
attenuated with ascetic wine,
runs down his sweaty thigh
and pools in shifting sand…
The river knows…
And even further,
That boy who watches himself reflected…
So many hours, Narcissus, (Son of the river)
(Unnoticed, the bow slips from his grasp)
When hubris calls, all that you inherit dissolves:
Though you are in and of the water,
all connection to the ripples fade,
returning to stillness; You are such stuff,
Son of Cephissus, and pass, also, into myth.
Did you recognise, gentle somnambulist,
that memory, ultimately, is fallible:
As much an invention
as this stereoscopic metal box
into which you peer
to ******* its umbra cast within.
But I must sleep, Father, mayhap to dream,
And in that sombre place, weave such a tapestry
that my stories and the legends of my kings
and wisest sage, live (albeit as a fabrication)
in gold and silver thread sewn in sanguinary ground
as a lustrous cover for this wondrous orb:
Hear my glorious tale
and wonder not what lies below!
The river knows …
Divisionism is a reconstruction of an impression:
A deconstruction of light, an empirical demonstration
One last thing, Father,
In this final dream, I see a boat
on the water, carried from the far-side
against the flow—it travels in an unbroken line,
There is a lone man on this vessel, Father,
He has named The River: He calls it, Acheron.
How so shall I name him?
You shall name Him, 'Master',
But do not speak. Pay Him, as He is due,
And return with Him to where you may dream of life…
Eyelids flutter, between states…
The sleeping boy waits,
He has listened prudently,
In the last moments of unconsciousness
he drags his canoe to the waters edge
and paddles into the lazy river
to join the other boats on the water…
(He is the antediluvian being: His dream-state is ‘Arhat’)
Gotama rests on a pontoon of fragrant Lotus bloom
His eyes neither open nor closed, His being shimmers
as the sun-gold settles, His being vibrates with an harmonic
so sweet a flame erupts on the face of the deep,
He is chanting; Quantum rhythms resonate across the valley,
“Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”
(A single flash, that splits the day from night, erupts)
As the evanescent flame recedes, crackling-bluish-laminar,
by the last shard of light from heaven,
a rock—dark beneath the water—worn
and rounded, turning, illuminates;
And the fishermen know to return…
(Saṃsāra: By all things known, all things repeating,
all things rested; all restarting, all renewed.)
And then, our brother finally wakes
To walk again the ground that shakes
Gotama to his side does call
To remind our son that all men fall
And pride and **** will come undone
Beneath the pivots of a careless sun
The ghosts of Baal who ****** the just
Are less than stone and less than dust
Remind us all, as The River flows,
The Now is all The River knows.
By Data © 2018
I wrote the first draft of this poem in 2012; there are many iterations since then, each equally long. If you got to the end, well done, you!