Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Poem: "The River's Bed"

Windswept places have dry red rocks
With faces coarse and dotted,
Wiry trees with scattered shade 
Cast sleepy shapes upon them.
A man lives here - the only one
Although he looks for others
He peeks in houses when he passes
Approaching them from miles off, 
He likes to look inside them.
Their rooms are strung with cobwebs, 
He thinks they hold the walls together, 
Once nails have rusted into dust. 
The winds knock often at the frame and 
Shake the cobwebs to the ground, 
Begin to knock the houses down
A slow consumptive process.

He tries to stay near watered lands
He sets up camp right by the river, 
A small, strong vein of chuckling rapids,
Which hasn't dried up yet this year.
Rain comes not often but dramatically, 
Hard enough to feed the river
To keep the roots around it swollen 
and leaves a healthy shade of green. 
He checks the river every day, 
To make sure that it keeps its promise -
Today it seems a little low,
It doesn't quite bite at his ankles.
When he wades across to check a trap
He doesn't need his arms for balance
A rock downstream sticks in the air - 
It never did before. 
A few days later he walks across
Without touching the water,
He hops between sandbars and rocks 
And understands the source is dry - 
No rain will come for months. 
He returns, kicking at the grass 
And packs up all his camping things
To put across his back. 
He sleeps one last time by the river, 
Wrapped up to his ears in blankets
The moon shines on his head. 

The next day he walks straight upstream
Up the path of the fading river
Moisture pools in little pockets
To gather muck that was once swept downstream
He kicks at the bank to watch the dirt tumble,
It collapses softly like snow
He picks up things he thinks might be useful,
And stops to eat when there's shade


Reido said...

Cool poem, Tom. I like how the ending tails off and leaves the reader hanging a little, wondering about the fate of the man and when the rains will return to bring life back to the arid landscape. Great imagery throughout - spiderwebs holding walls in place, swollen roots, rocks breathing, etc. I especially like the line about the dusty bank collapsing like snow. I found it ironic to metaphorically describe the crumbling banks with snow, the paucity of which caused the river to dry up in the first place. Really cool.

AndreDogg said...

Chuckling brooks. well said. I think that the most succesful aspect is the beginning with the nails and cobwebs, that imagery, what the man "thinks" about them holding the walls up, although he obviously is not of that impression, frames his imagination very well. An excellent way to unobtrusively indicate anothers' imagination.