Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On The River

Corot - Boatman of Mortefontaine



On the River


A day on the river, processional, surrendered
in a shell of whispers, floating down a blue nave.
Leaf ceilings in the transepts lace like our fingers,
our heads bow over the side as if to worship
the spirit holding us up.

Jade waters full of secret life
blind back our defenseless eyes with
their shifting coat of surfaced silver,
a door of running glass we pass through
into moving darkness

full of quick fleeing shapes, green-glazed stones,
waving grass that clutches with hands and feet,
water babies swimming through our fingers, 
gloving us in their slickness,
cartwheeling to escape our careless giants’ grasp.

Minnows like chrome torpedos, mirror-sided
decorate the shallows, fishermen’s bribes
spinning vertical on their lips between the stones
like the ghosts between my thoughts
feeding there and shining.

This is a journey we do not
wish to disturb by any arrival.
Watchful faces in the high rock follow us
but not so thoroughly, so aptly, so archly
as the faces in our dreams.

The river loses and wins her mercurial battles
without any knowledge of a contest.
So it is in the river of your touch
where I spin silver, slick and never stopping,
carried from twilight to another dawn.




July 1989
Revised, March 2011





Posted for OneShotWednesday at the inimitable One Stop Poetry



Image: Boatman of Mortefontaine, by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot,
Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot [Public domain], via wikimedia commons

44 comments:

  1. How gorgeous. Each line is captivating, soul-feeding-- I especially like:

    Jade waters full of secret life
    blind back our defenseless eyes with
    their shifting coat of surfaced silver,
    a door of running glass we pass through
    into moving darkness...

    xxxj

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  2. Thanks jenne, and thanks for featuring me at your place.

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  3. you spun a nice one...beautiful descriptions...there was a river that rolled by my grandmothers house we spent plenty a sunday afternoon at...you had me there...mesmerising...

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  4. Joy, wow second visit today! I really enjoyed reading these sublime words of yours. ~I think I'd like to dive into your brain too, there are many many excellent poets, you are one of my favourites x

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  5. So rich...and teeming with silken images, like the river teems with life.

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  6. Wallace Stevens said, "Thought is an infection;" well, you've certainly infected me with this lovely imagery. Stirring and soothing descriptions; a beautiful bit of imagery that grows on you from line to line.

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  7. You manage to create an effortless flow despite the dense tangle of descriptors. Though I feel like I'm trapped more in a Pre-Raphealite painting than a Corot. Lovely piece.

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  8. "like the ghosts between my thoughts
    feeding there and shining." Beautiful, evocative imagery!

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  9. for a moment i thought you will just write about some ordinary time at the river - but should know you better by now...amazing images joy - esp. loved
    This is a journey we do not
    wish to disturb by any arrival

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  10. "Jade waters full of secret life
    blind back our defenseless eyes with
    their shifting coat of surfaced silver,"

    That's such beautiful passage. There are many. Overall, such a fascinating journey of human emotion translated into imagery. Magnificent poetry.

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  11. You always have magical imagery. Thanks for sharing this one! The twist at the end is great. A lover's touch!

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  12. Just as the mutter almost foggy image - your poem whispers it's statement. "Shhh" we really don't want to disturb the dawn.

    I love the muted colors that Corot uses so frequently in his landscapes - he is a favorite of mine :)

    thanks for the One Shot

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  13. We spend many a day on the banks of the Stewaicke River...hubby trying to catch a fish, and me crying if he dares to! :) This piece sums up why my treehugger soul tags along, to capture that essence, to really feel life, the sights, the smells, all beautifully woven together here, in the images you present. Thank you!

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  14. Where image meets metaphor...no one does it better than you, Joy.
    "river, processional, surrendered
    in a shell of whispers, floating down a blue nave.
    Leaf ceilings in the transepts lace like our fingers,
    our heads bow over the side as if to worship
    the spirit holding us up."
    Genius.

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  15. Joy Ann, a gorgeous piece, filled with wonderful
    imagery and my favourite part is:

    "Watchful faces in the high rock follow us
    but not so thoroughly, so aptly, so archly
    as the faces in our dreams."

    Pamela

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  16. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!!!!! Flows smoothly as the river.

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  17. this gives my soul such rest.

    Thank you.

    Lady Nyo

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  18. Rich, evocative imagery and lovely cadence.

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  19. "this is a journey we do not wish to disturb by any arrival" - so good. beautiful imagery here.

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  20. Mirror sided chrome torpedoed fishermans bribe?

    Where do you get this Brilliance?

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  21. So lovely. I was in the boat trailing my hand through the water and my soul through the peace. I'll read it again and again for more meaning perhaps, but the imagery is more than enough.

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  22. The words are as liquid as the river they describe. Beautiful.

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  23. I loved it.The imagery was fabulous. Some top nudge lines. umm a favorite or one of the top lines...geez I can't choose. This poem was right up my alley besides its name. :)

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  24. What's the line by Blake -- "Dip him in the river who loves water." Her. You. The holiness of this river-walk (loved the processional blue naves and leaf transepts in the first stanza), the baptismal immersions which make the reader swim in the wet current, the abundant exempla of life which allow us to live beyond our bodies -- and then that mercurial button, where so muchrivering becomes all-night loving: I'm dipped there, too, and immensely gratified, and grateful. Thank.. -- Brendan

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  25. Nice one shot - you write in such a thoughful way. Truly an excellent piece.

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  26. Oh wow! This was superb! What great descriptives! I loved the chrome torpedo minnows!

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  27. great imagery and the metaphor works brilliantly.
    My favourite verse -
    Minnows like chrome torpedos, mirror-sided
    decorate the shallows, fishermen’s bribes
    spinning vertical on their lips between the stones
    like the ghosts between my thoughts
    feeding there and shining.
    Just beautiful

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  28. I have always connected with river so much.. as I see not as something consisting of matter but of life... and relate to it as such.. hence your verse here too connected with me at a very deep level... and I liked the way you described it all... So vividly and flowingly.
    thanks for sharing..

    ॐ शांति ॐ
    Om Shanti Om
    May peace be... praying for People of Japan

    http://shadowdancingwithmind.blogspot.com/2011/03/whispers-love-and-insignificance.html
    Connect me at Twitter @VerseEveryDay

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  29. Mesmerizing, hedgewitch, just like the river. I can't wait to go canoeing again - offers ample time to drink it all in.

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  30. My senses are on over-drive now :) I want to be there. Simply gorgeous.

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  31. Many thanks to all who've stopped by and left a comment. As always, your feedback is greatly appreciated.

    @RToady--I wanted to use another Corot, a bit darker, but it was rather stringently licensed. You can see it at the Chicago Art Institute website here. I like the figure in the foreground.

    @LadyNyO I'm so glad, Jane. Thanks.

    @Brendan The first stanza is all new writing. I'm glad you enjoyed the architectural/christian references--very rare in my work. ;-) And thanks for reveling in the river with me.

    Everyone else, again, thanks very much.

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  32. First off, you're awesome my dear, and I will be visiting this page every Wednesday. That being said, this reminded me of a quote by the poet Keats... to paraphrase (and forgive me if I missquote) but "(the) point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore; it is to be IN the lake" I was certainly submerged by this text.

    -Pounds

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  33. This is totally one of the best poems I've ever read. So chocked full of grey and silver spilling like your thoughts. Ghosts and minnows and mysteries -- ahhhh, I feel like I've just had a nice walk in nature by this river. Thanks for the trip.

    xo

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  34. This is my third reading and still I feel inadequate to capture the nuances of this richly layered poem--the river as a cathedral,life as a leaf afloat--we, 'defenseless' in its meandering and secrets and changing forms. And then, we reveal or wake up to who we are. Excellently crafted lines in exquisite form! Thanks again, Joy, for this chance to experience your poetry!

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  35. "Like the ghosts of my thoughts" ~ your work always amazes me with the presence of fantastic lines like that. ~Not feeling so great today but making a few rounds, so glad I made it in to read yours! Wonderful work...~April

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  36. How absolutely stunning is the imagery here, Joy! The metaphor is simply beyond the scope of my vocabulary!!
    Your way with words is breathtakingly beautiful, dear lady!! Each poem by you is like an experience.. a very rich experience..

    May this river of thoughts and beauty flow gracefully by you, my dear.. and may you enjoy every moment of it to the fullest

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  37. Am I still allowed to comment? Pleeeeeease? I love so many images in this poem.

    "our heads bow over the side as if to worship
    the spirit holding us up"

    the entire 3rd and 4th stanzas

    And then that remarkable final stanza. The river winning and losing her battles without any idea of a contest, and on into the comparison to an emotional flow. The entire thing is brilliant. I hate you. ;-)

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  38. Thanks again, JF, BKP, Alegria, Kavita, and everyone. I really appreciate the input and kind words. April, I hope you're feeling better soon.

    @FB You are always allowed to comment, especially when you flatter me like that.You, Gay and Brendan all really made me feel especially good by picking the first stanza, which I wrote the day it was posted--all the other lines are just tweaked from my long-ago self's version, which is almost like another person's writing by now.

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  39. Minnows like chrome torpedos, mirror-sided
    decorate the shallows, fishermen’s bribes

    What a vivid picture you draw with your words...I have seen these "Minnows like chrome torpedos" scattering, a thousand times in a thousand directions at the drop of a pebble. Beautifully done, retrieving memories and putting them into words. Thanks for this one.

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  40. How refreshing. I admire how you allow the river the dignity of being itself while also using it as a metaphor for the mind and a relationship to another person. That you've done this in a relatively short poem is all the more impressive. This is my first visit to your place and I like what I see very much.

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  41. Enjoyable, well-written, nature-centric work.

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  42. Finally, Hedgwitch, I find myself in a proper place to comment on this poem which I've come back to several times.

    I'm so utterly struck by the day at the river as "processional" in the very first line, and the opening stanza--"leaf ceilings" laced as fingers, heads bowed in worship--is as good as it gets. (Though that's a hard call since your poetry is always so refined and more powerful as such.)

    While you begin with "us," I was still pleasantly surprised when the poem came back to "us." As the opening began as a kind of prayer or image of praying, the ending makes this a love poem not simply to river life but to human touch. For me, the ending speaks to the divinity of the other, exalting the speaker. Simply sublime.

    Really fine, fine writing as usual, Hedge. And as always, I will carry your images into my day.

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'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg