River


Three thousand miles south
of this place, your mouth opens
wide into the Gulf of Mexico.
But here, at your humble source,
your waters creep north. Your life,
lived in ceaseless rounds
from lake to sea to sky to rain—
has made this much plain:
To get where you must go,
you must sometimes go
somewhere else. The way
forward depends on the lay
of the land. You follow
the givens, what’s necessary
and true, right through
to the end. I can’t see
around the next bend.
But here light ripples
on your quiet face. Young fish
stroke your belly. Warblers sing,
cattails shiver, insect wings offer
hushed applause, all for love
of you. Rest a while longer.
The journey will find you
after the pause.


(At the headwaters of the Mississippi,
Lake Itasca, Minnesota)


Play notes: My recent (and first) visit to the headwaters of the Mississippi River, located on the north end of Minnesota's Lake Itasca, inspired this poem. Such a peaceful, humble beginning for such a mighty river! Poets have often drawn life lessons from their observations of rivers and other bodies of water. Perhaps you could visit one near you, or draw upon memory, to compose such a poem of your own. "River" (above) was originally twice as long; the text meandered all over the place. Don't be surprised if your river poem wants to flood your page too.


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