A Small River in Iowa and the Wide World
July, late afternoon. I sit alone
And look at only water; the still river,
On which the homely bridge’s arches cast
Three perfect oval mirrors less than a stone
May break and break the stillness, soon will shiver
With life, be lost, imperfect as the past.

What of imperfect love? Which wears perfection
A day an hour a moment—a moment’s wonder
That fails as morning’s dew, as mornings do.
This small river’s a good place for reflection:
Its little hour, before the sun goes under,
Begins to change. Then what of me? of you?

We talked that other hour of love, but not 
Of mine, of yours for someone else. Now all
This afternoon I’ve thought of love and you,
Who are not here. The wide world makes a knot 
Of spirit bones flesh blood dark love loss gall.
And yet the grass, come night, is laced with dew.

This river, quick with carp as thick as mud,
Is a cool place where idlers like to pass
An hour or two and fish or contemplate
The fire-swept wings of the blackbirds, the flood
Of feelings that their shadows on the grass
Give rise to, as the day flames down, turns slate.

And O how fleeting the seasons are, how on
And on they stream! Do you not feel with me
How cold the grass is? Will you never fear
This chilling, failing light? The sun is gone.
The river’s glassy now. Do you not see 
How still it is again? You are not here.

No matter. All this will soon be done.
And I shall leave for good this riverbank—
Sleek carp the redwings this close-knotted earth
The bridge its mirrors the hours will be as one.
Before the air darkens and goes blank,
Where will the world have brought me? What was it worth?

When all these that were shimmer, shadow, or gloss
Are far from here, shall I remember then 
The river as a world wide as wonder
That flows, entwines continuous change with loss?
Having once been, shall I be once again
Aware of earth’s both excellence and plunder? 
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