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Even after all these years
of wandering this twisting path of self,
how is it I am still surprised
to find a new home inside the rush of river,
as if I haven’t been here
in this song of melting many times before?
How is it I forgot my home
inside the brittle brown grass of March,
home in the sweet moldering scent of spring,
home in the sun soaked day—
as if the great star of beginnings
is saying again to me, Come, friend.
 
How is it I sometimes forget to arrive
exactly where I am, especially in these days
when forgiveness arrives like the cranes
on great wings that charge the air.
These days when love comes crashing in
like western wind, breaking branches
and rearranging the yard, as if to say
it is here to change everything.
Sometimes I forget the world will find me
wherever I am and insist in the language
of willow and trunk and hawk and noon,
home, home, you are home.

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Tempted by Comparison


 
 
Today I know the self
as a stone in the stream—
everything around me rushing and quickening,
and me, a way to mark all this moving.
Amidst all the bubble and rush,
a stone has its own very slow journey,
and yet, there is no doubt
the stone belongs, is doing
exactly what a stone should do—
which is to be true to its stone-ness,
to know itself as a traveler, yes,
but also as an integral part of the path,
a model of consistency, seldom
in a hurry, inclined to show up
exactly where it is.

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The Defense




The part of me who fears being falsely accused
will do anything to defend herself—
build walls of words, make dams of truths,
construct barriers out of old conversations.
She has always been this way,
certain others are judging her.
Certain they find her at fault.
Certain she must protect herself.
I would like to take her for a walk
and show her how the ice on the river
is melting. How all winter long,
the river itself was the only thing
in its own way—impeding, constricting—
doing what rivers do in the cold.
Now that the cold recedes
the river is more open, more free.
I want her to smell that alive river scent
and know that she, too, can melt.
I want her to feel the freedom of warmth.
I want to tell her that sometimes
the best way to know the innocent self
is to let it run away.

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Student

The river in autumn

is clear enough

to see the trout

who swim

in the deeper pools.

There are many ways

to speak.

This is one.

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Down by the river we sit and talk.

When I think I can’t ache any more,

the world serves more heartache.

And I meet it.

I say no, but I feel myself stretched

by some great invisible hand,

rendering me spacious enough to hold

what must be held.

When we rise to leave,

the river doesn’t stop.

Nor does the forgiving wind.

I swear I feel them move

right through me.

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Because you float—

that in itself is something

to admire. As we all know,

the world tries to sink us.

But you, buoyant and tough,

you carry us over cold water.

You act as a bumper when

we get too close to a rock,

to a wall, to a log. You move

at the river’s pace.

There are days, weeks,

I wish I could do what you do—

surround us with support,

make it fun, slip us

into the flow so easily

we can’t help but laugh,

even as our hearts

thump wild in our chests.

 

 

 

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And so I pull the purple comb

through my son’s thick hair,

the same way I’ve seen

the stylists do at Great Clips.

Wet the hair. Comb it through.

Part it. Hold it between

two fingers. Cut vertically. Snip,

and his hair falls to the floor.

Comb it through. Snip. Snip.

 

We both know that I

have no clue what I’m doing.

So we laugh as the hair

piles up on the floor.

We chatter, the way

a stylist and customer would,

talking of school and his friends

and his unruly cowlicks. Snip.

 

I remember that time

I was trapped underwater

by the river’s hydraulics,

how I stared up at the light

shining through the surface

and thought, I don’t think

it’s my time yet to die.

And the river spit me out

and I swam hard as I could

through the rapid toward shore.

 

I don’t think it’s my time yet

to die. Nor my son’s. Though

all around us the news of dying—

the numbers increasing every day,

stories of beloveds who are gone.

 

We ask ourselves, how do we

go on? And meanwhile, we do.

We go on. And because my son’s hair

is too long for his taste,

I learn how to cut it by cutting it.

How much more will we learn

as this goes on? How to share?

How to grieve? How to let go? How to live?

 

And meanwhile, life spits us out

into sunlight, and we come up

spluttering, gasping, surprised

we’re alive, and we swim, what a gift

to find we’re still swimming.

 

 

 

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Riparian

To be known by the river—
that is what I wanted,
which is to say,
to know the self
as the river knows it,
as something that might be carried,
something that will be eroded,
something that might wade
into the center and then join
in the flow of all things.

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Hundreds of smooth red stones—

we gathered them that summer

and spent days carefully laying them out

into a wide and winding red path.

It had no real starting point, no destination.

We tucked white daisies between the rocks.

We said it was for the fairies.

I wouldn’t have said it then, in fact,

I hesitate today to say we didn’t believe in them.

They gave us so much purpose.

Even now, I’m following that path.

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Autumn Beside the River

 

 

 

The rocks that were underwater

two months ago are dry now,

and a woman can sit on them

beneath the bridge and escape

the September sun. But she can’t

escape herself. There was a time

she really believed she could control things.

Now she sits with her own brokenness

and invites the inevitable autumn into her,

the autumn that’s already come.

Invites the lengthening nights. Invites

the dank scent of the garden, moldering and dead.

Invites the loss of green. You can’t be

a sapling forever, she tells herself,

though another part of her argues,

Yes you can, yes you can.

 

The river has never been so clear—

every rock in the bed is visible now,

and perhaps clarity is one of autumn’s best gifts.

She imagines the leaves of her falling off—

how she loves them.

She imagines them golden in the wind.

 

 

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