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poem | river

This is far & away my favorite poem. I wrote it in the summer of 2000 I guess. I’m posting it because I’ll reference it later today in a carnival post. I’m not in a poetry phase right now. I go through cycles on a visual brain – poetry brain seesaw. When they meet in a suspended, gravity free balanced moment I do my best work, integrating text into my visual art. This was written in a longer burst of poetry brain when I was doing slams at a local bar, occasionally even winning. Somewhere I still have a Jagermeister ballcap and lingering liver damage from the prize stash. I give you river:

i went to the river
& they gave me rivershoes:
strappy sandals w/ thick soles
to protect my feet:
high-arched & pavement spoiled,
from slipping
on smooth rocks
or opening
over sharp ones.
the straps of my sandals
bit into me
& i blistered.
but i set my jaw
& waded out to the deeper waters
where i could feel
the will of the current testing mine.

the rushing tickled
my calves & ankles
& it aroused a desire
to surrender & become
completely wet.

i sat down on the rocks, face tilted back
yeilding to sun above &
water surrounding.
i leaned far back,
letting the river wash my hair
& tension
away, behind me.

w/ the river embracing me,
& the sun filling my eyes painfully,
i wrote a poem
about alchemy & baptism
but the river took it-
i couldn’t bring myself to dry off long enough to write-

so i gave it over to the
fire & water
spoke my poem to the sun
where it danced & rippled across
the water where the
light & coolness
mingled i released the poem &
let it be a prayer instead

now i am getting acquainted w/ this river
& falling in love w/ her.
for a time i sit,
bathing blissfully
& trying to remember the word
for a river nymph
so i can name this experience.

now, moved,
i wade deeper, where the water
splashes my thighs then
my crotch & the cold
makes me gasp & giggle.
i explore, with my feet
searching for the deepest place
& then finding it
i peel off my bathing suit
& toss it onto a pile of stones posing,
until a rainier season,
as land.

the rivershoes come off next.

a watersnake slips through the river
& slithers up onto the stones
curling up beside my discarded clothing.

i go headfirst into the water.
the river drinks me.
the perfect, clean cold
shocks & thrills me
raising bumps on my skin
like the floor of pebbles beneath me.
each a hard, smooth piece of earth,
each a single cell
of the riverbody.

i float
above & a part of them,
head down,
eyes open,
hair like snakes
coiling around my vision.
as i look down,
the harsh gaze of the sun follows
& performs its own initiation.

during that hot day, it
stings & blisters
me, killing 2 layers of my surface
that i will peel off
7 days later,
awed at shedding my own skin
& remembering watersnakes
& cool ripples singing across stones
& the eye
of that singeing sun
finally accepting me-
wrinkled, red, & blistered-
welcoming me to the summer.