The Turn of a River Rock
A ribbon of rippled silk runs the river’s length
where water touches shore. Hypnotic wavelets
caress your willing feet like heartbeats. You
don’t think to leave until deeper water calls.
You’ve heard of large rocks imprisoned in clay,
so you dive and turn a rock, unprepared
for life that’s there, or the certainty of death.
Tiny snails hold fast the underside; some
are crushed by the turning. Crawdads scurry,
unless an otter visited first; then a hundred
parts of death scatter in a silent cloud.
The startle makes you cling to the rock.
You can’t return it now. The crater begins
to fill with silt. The current is relentless.
How did you think it otherwise? Release,
and you’ll drift over roots brought down
in storms, over undulating grass, and clay
banks too slippery to stand. Mud is deeper
around the bend. Come November, come
weary salmon. All of this was here before
places had names. Whatever you’ve come
to fear, it did not stop your birth. Turn,
in a second fetal roll for shore. Cormorants,
black and urgent, fly low upstream at dusk.
A turtle slides off a log. Ducks settle
in reeds. The quickening heart is yours.
Geese, by hundreds, migrate in the night.
A cottonwood leans over the river.