I Went To The River - Poem by Ben Paynter
There is a river, deep, it's fast even
especially in spring, especially when the snow
melts off the hills and the trees, especially
when it rains and rains and you tell me
the end is at the bottom of the river.
You tell me these things, on your back
floating on the floor, making snow angels
in the carpet. The bottom of the river
is always changing dear, is this what you meant?
There is no end? We swim and dive in the
darkness and fumble for an answer.
There's a river that I knew once, as a child even
though I'll never be a child again. I told you once
dear, didn't I? Didn't I tell you the river was where I went.
Especially when mother was angry again, especially
when sister fell off the tracks for the maybe
hundredth time. I threw rocks in it, tried to fill it up.
Stop running! I told it. I said this because envy
coursed through me, thick with my own blood.
The river ran and I could not, such is the life of a child.
Isn't that right babe? We child, we shadows, we
tree swallows skimming on the surface.
There's a river, really the river, the only one
I've known or cared to. I went there often,
still do. Below the Main St. bridge, below
the steel and concrete, the boats slow down,
sometimes the people wave. I tell them to
fill the river up, drink the water. I try to be honest
and clever and wise and wind up angry and riddled
with hope. I go to the river with
an empty soul. River fill me, but
it doesn't or won't or can't. Dear, you're swimming
on your side, kicking the stool I saved from my first
house. Are you at the river now? Do you see it? Are
the herons standing on the shore?
I went to the river because I couldn't
understand it, I went to the river already wet
and looking for trouble, barren eyes combing
river stones for a sign. Dear, you're still drinking.
I can hear you, gargling vodka flavored mouthwash.
Are you full? Does it fill you? This water moved, and
it moved me, clouds all scattered on its face.
Can you hear me? You're running water in the
sink, splashing it on your face. Where are we
going tonight and with who? Where to?
Worlds change and go on changing, I know
this, you know this, it isn't black magic, voodoo,
or religion. It's life, and madness to believe
anything else. We stand still and the world
moves around us, we walk and life slips
by in eddies, trickles and pools at our feet.
Can I show you how to be lost? It's where
you find yourself, and maybe even god. I went
to the river dear, last night, that mad brown
river. To fill the big blue welling up inside you,
the hole gone and filled up with sky.
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