I floated belly upward,
the gunwales of my eyes even
with the surface, grateful to ease
my gravid weight even briefly
in buoyancy, grateful for the cool
immersion in late summer,
an ancient continuum
to alleviate the wait.
I didn’t know then that we’d come
to this river to stay, that our children
would splash their firsts, would nearly
drown, but not, would skip stones
farther and farther, finally to span
the width like a bridge’s purpose.
It is always there and it is always moving.
The fish think nothing at all of us.
The channel cut between the trees
is a courseway for osprey, merganser, scaup,
a flue from the Pacific
for fog’s advance and ebb.
In summer, the cool shine is a kolo we all dance,
a raucous cantata for harmonies and dissonance,
but when the rains come hard and loud in winter,
we watch from the bluff as the river gathers
and gorges, as it crowds and courses,
a gale force flow of lawnchairs and felled sequoias,
a total tantrum of wild profusion, the river
not itself, possessed, out of its mind,
disgorging flotsam and dark, roiled water.
Today, in the calm before the season’s start:
the cant of the shore shaped by winter’s hand,
the sand warm by midday, and the water clear to six feet,
no algae yet or willow pollen, the river
is the face of a woman unsurprised by anything.
A mated mallard pair paddles over
but I have nothing for them but this notebook
and pen, nothing but my word
against theirs for what this river is.