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?