In My Veins

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Sitting on the shore of Bear Lake watching my boy scout troop, including my own sons, swimming and canoeing, I grew contemplative about the nature of water and the currents of my life.  The boys laughed and squealed as they frolicked in the cold lake.  They were clearly enjoying scout camp at Bear Lake Aquatics Base.

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The scene caused me to remember my own scouting days canoeing down the rapids of the Delaware River, across the lakes of New York’s Adirondack mountains, and over placid colonial New Jersey canals fishing for catfish.  This poem began to take shape as I continued to watch the water and happy boys so clearly enjoying it.  Good for you, I thought.

The river of my life continues to flow, with strange twists and turns, and not a few eddies and submerged snags.  But I paddle on.

IN MY VEINS

This water does not seem to move,
rather sleeps contentedly,
still, glistening the yellow sun.
Trees on each bank reach
skyward and riverward,
into air and water.

This river slumbers except
where my canoe prow tickles
up a wake and green sides
send slow ripples
that lazily lap the banks.
I do no injury.

If I slow my canoe, if
I drop my paddle and stop,
leave no trace,
I see:
the boat still advances
in quiet current
past the bank-bound trees.
The river does not sleep,
I see:
it creeps forward
inexorably, taking me
from whence to where,
from then to what will be.

I am part of the river.
My childhood passed a stone
upstream, a green-speckled hegemon
lording from the bank,
aged with orange and black lichens.
The river’s mouth, yawning to the eternal
ocean, will swallow me some day, draw me
into swirl and flow forever.
Here, today, the river is
the liquid in my veins.

I seek neither headwaters nor sea:
they were and will be, and always are.
Here is where I am.
Kingfisher knows this,
watching me from arching bow.
Great Blue Heron knows this,
winging downstream
to a place where I am not
yet.  River knows this, too,
expiring in oceans even
while birthing from melting snows.

The river is always
awake, every part of it:
River knows.
Rock knows.
Tree knows.
Only,
I am slow to see.
Sky knows.
Earth knows.
Wind knows and whispers
to me across the water.
Only,
I am slow to hear.

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