It doesn’t bother me that it leaves the moment it arrives,
that my reflection can’t quite stay still enough
for the ripples, the lapping,
that it has more to do than just succor a half-dozing bystander
resting on his elbows on its mossy banks.
Tiny spring to wide open mouth – I get that.
It doesn’t happen from dawdling, not even in mid-summer
when the energy goes out of everything
and even the landscape deflates.
Sure, it slows but it doesn’t take its time
because it’s free of time.
And it’s in no fixed domicile as I am.
It moves constantly so as to be in every place.
Meanwhile I grow older, figure myself wiser,
even when doing nothing more than spreading out on soft green.
I’m not the only one.
There’s some guys fishing farther upstream.
A few kids splash and swim where the river forms a kind of cul-de-sac.
Two lovers dangle their feet from an old retaining wall.
As if any of us are truly river…
The river’s been rolling through this town
since before there were footprints on its shores.
It may have changed direction here and there.
It could even have left a little of itself behind.
But nothing alters its purpose.
It’s not about the hand-in-hand.
the trickles of water down the face,
the big trout reeled in.
The river obeys only gravity and God.
It is never ours.
Instead, we have our basins and bathtubs.
Someday, I plan to take a boat
and follow a boat’s-length of that river
from the downtown docks
to its distant sprawl into the sea.
When I’m done, the solitude will have
taught me something of myself
but I’ll be as ignorant as ever of the river.
That’s why I plan to do it.
Knowledge, ignorance – my rudder and my oar.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.