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.