River's Ruse

You felt it

as your heels sank slowly

into gummy grains rimming

a finely sorted shoreline;

from sandy lips

fluted like crinoline skirts

you felt siren song

tucked away among gritty runes.

Good time to get up and walk away.

This river loves a ruse.

Temperamental bards

require a lazy audience.

So you slow down

long enough

to watch alluvium drop –


three inches to rusty sand

six inches to fine mud

two inches to silt


nine coon tracks.

You sit satisfied,


blessed are the patient,

and the river leads you on.

You feel a rhythm,

it hooks your braided logic.

Good time to get up and walk away,

good time

to seek a Heisenburg translation

for river speak – he’d say

it’s never here – never now

always here – always now.

You could take an hour

to mouth

one syllable,

you could love mud

in your teeth;

but a river hoards its lore for locals -

heron and chub.

River tongues sing beyond us,

so you must slide deeper

than your days,

descend darkly

into the hottest August hours.

So what

if silt becomes a second skin

and you glisten with mica sand;

so what

if ruddy clay gilts your body,

and the sun bleaches your bones?

You must slide deeper than the Devonian,

fall deftly into waterless respirations,

bear the burden of a billion tamarisk seedlings

nursing the aquifer dry.

You must witness

coyote willow and cottonwood

negotiate treaties with russian olive,

witness them

council with equisetum

on thriving three hundred million years.

Stuck in the mud,

you might lose your bearings

long enough to notice

how shadows hold the foreground.

Stuck in the mud,

with your teeth in its mouth,

you might take three breaths with this place:

one for a pink canyon

one for a thirsty sky

one for a rakish river.

Stuck in the mud,

porous as fossiled bones,

you might snag some tattered tune

strung together like prayer flags.

Be the flags!

Be the rhythm

pushing water and wind,

folding sediments into a shoreline

where you sunk your heels

just moments ago.

I tell you

it’s a good time

to get up

and walk away.


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