The river’s tale
There is something important about a river.
And in that it moves, it is alive and timeless
and tells tales to live by.
We measured the days by the river,
Joe and I.
In spring there was little else to do but drink coffee,
and learn to smoke, and watch the river rise
which gave a hint of hope that the months of gloom
might be at an end. So, we would say:
Yesterday when we drank coffee and smoked cigarettes,
the river was lower and slower than today.
And then the river really began to move
with sheets of ice being carried along
then broken at the rock rapids ‒
until the entire river turned to white turbulence.
Mesmerized, we watched the river for hours,
concealing our own turnings and upheavals.
Spring was on its way; winter had been too long.
We needed motion, new life, new love…
But Joe and I ‒
we were not the river.
Two men went out in a rubber raft
to shoot rapids.
We watched from inside, laughing at their daring,
yet, admiring their drive,
reconciling our own emotions of
man versus the river.
But Joe and I ‒
we drank coffee and smoked cigarettes and talked about
the river rising, foaming ‒ ever in motion.
We seemed content, as I recall.
There were books in the library and classes and coloured television.
It was the river, however, that held us,
along with anyone else who wanted to share the hold.
He ate brown toast in the mornings with honey and jam,
at lunch some diner’s special,
and we were still there near the river one afternoon
when we argued for the first time about
what he really was, and what he played at being.
He owned up. He laughed. And it was good.
Another friend said: Joe’s okay but I
wouldn’t spend every day being with him.
It’s just that Joe and I knew the river:
saw it change from week to week;
saw the shore turn green;
and the trees come suddenly to life.
And, from the trees the squirrels
scampered down with bushy-tails
and hibernated skeletal black bodies.
And we even saw the sky,
and the sun,
and much later ‒ the river again,
low and gentle except where it met
the rocks under the bridge.
I never saw him after graduation.
But I remember that timeless year
when Joe and I
watched the river −
telling us tales to live by.
From my Book 3 – Echoes of Footsteps