RIVERS

I have never been
particularly one for rivers.
Like everyone, I’ve walked
along their shores, listened to them
gurgle under remote bridges
but otherwise never
paid them much attention.

There’s an old Buddhist saying
you can’t step into
the same river twice,
but that presupposes you
step into the river the first time.

I remember city rivers most
no banks, concrete walls from which
you cannot step
so much as fall.

Once rivers were different
they sounded different
calling out clearly
if you would only listen
but we were all
Siddhartha then.

Rivers are borders
easily crossed, the Genesee
walking the railroad trestle over
the Upper Letchworth falls
the girls faces frozen in fear
until we stopped, mid bridge,
and looked down
at the water careening
over the rocks, carrying off
the bravado and childishness.

The Schelde, with
great ships down stream
at its receding docks
leaving only Antwerp’s
waterfront bars
where it is easy to stumble
one drink or many
on the cobbled streets, where
the ancient words muttered
in the old Synagogue
are mummified, placed
in sarcophagi of religious fervor.

The Sumida, four blocks
from Senso-ji, and the incense
burner from whose joss smoke
I rubbed my heart,
bowed before the temple
and, at the saffron robed
monks urging, wrote her name
on a thin paper copy
of the heart sutra which
he folded into a crane
and dropped from the bridge
watching it drift slowly
toward the sea.

 

The Afon Dwyfor, more creek
than river, where I sat
next to Lloyd George’s grave
outside, barely, Llanystumdwy
overlooking the churchyard
and we’d laugh
at the absurdity of it all,
he long dead, I in love
with a woman whose lips
I could taste from a single kiss
on a second date, and
the river whispering “tell her.”

MORNING SONG (AWDL GYWYDD)

The sun creeps down city streets, 
dew retreats from the grasses
and fills the air, with sweet scent
until spent, the bus passes.

The robin sits in the tree
as worms flee into the lawn.
The morning foretells the rain
that will slowly drain the dawn.

The city quietly wakes
and stretching, shakes off the sleep
it slowly comes back to life,
the sun a knife cutting deep.

ISOLATION

She wondered what it would be like
to be an island, set off somewhere
in a vast ocean, tropical preferably
where the only sounds were
the ebb and flow of the waves,
the thunder of the occasional storm
and the whisper of leaves tossed
by the omnipresent sea breezes.
she liked isolation, the silence
of repetitive sounds, free of the shackles
the city imposed on all within.
She imagined she might never tire
of the freedom and island enjoyed,
patiently waiting for the visitor
who might not ever wash up
on her beaches, she indifferent
but willing to accept what the gods
might choose to offer or deny her.

SEA-ING

He believes he would like the ocean,
imagines standing on the shore watching
as the waves wash up to his feet,
and as quickly retreat, smoothing the sand.
He has never seen the ocean, only
ponds and on large lake, but he
imagines the ocean is just
a giant lake with bigger waves.
He would like to see the fog
roll in erasing the horizon,
shrouding the seas in a deeper mystery.
He recalls standing in the bar
of the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo
late one night as the fog settled
over the city, and only the lights
of the tallest buildings
seemed afloat on endless sea.

REMEMBERED

She said she
recalled the spilled
glass of wine that stained
her white linen blouse.
She said
the city swallows people
like a hungry beast
that will never be sated.
I taste the summer sun
and the sweetness
of an early rain
in the Shiraz
that foretells
approaching winter.
The city is a cat
that curls by the lake
and purrs to
the gently rising moon.
She, who was once
very real, is now
little more than
a fading dream,
and I, the dreamer,
willingly cede that dream
to the wonder
of this moment,
and this.

LOST IN A DREAM

In my dream last night, I was lost
in a city of mostly dogs, but what was odd
is that they were all standard poodles
who only wanted to lick my hand and cheek.
I tell you this not because the dream
was unusual, it was in fact rather mundane.
I didn’t awaken with a damp face,
and there was no indication I
had been visited by a dog’s tongue.
I tell you this because you must
imagine how truly strange it was
for all of those dogs to meet
but a single human lost in a dream
that they couldn’t hope to comprehend.