when rivers die

When
rivers die,
there is
a silence
of stones.

Like all good pall-
bearers, they
carry the weight
down low, standing
straight while
the lament goes on for
miles.

The sun
unfolds
across old stretch
marks in soft mud. Slow.
Time breathes out
a dirge in oxidized
inspirations,
gasps a
violet ending.
Sentinel cancer,
the wise acridness
of dried riverbones
exposed
to eyes
that do not blink.
Slow.
A despair in sepia.
All graces
abandoned,
broken glass
dropped in faded weeds.
Brittle; brutal. Quiet.
None know her
suffering. None
can say
if she cried
out
at the last.

When
rivers die,
there is
a silence
of stones.

They keep watch
over what was,
blessing
each raindrop
in their stolid way,
dreaming
of waterfall
caresses.


18 thoughts on “when rivers die

  1. “dreaming
    of waterfall
    caresses.”

    The waterfall dream seems to persist among the looming thoughts of the river’s death. The variation of relatively short lines create intense crescendos. Beautiful ending.

  2. this is a beautiful and moving write…love the personification of the rocks as pall bearers and watchers over the bones…a sad day when the rivers disappear that b ring us life in water…

  3. Unfortunetly the once around may be no better
    As they may be wetter
    But polluted to the brink
    With everything from crap to the kitchen sink
    More bones to show when they dry
    Not even enough water left for them to cry

  4. Thanks, everyone, for your kind comments. This piece has gotten some real mixed reviews from friends around me– everything from “This is my favorite piece of yours” to “Are you doing ok? That’s the most desolate thing I’ve ever heard.”

    Adam, those lines were my favorites, too. A little bit of hope among the desolation 🙂

    Jeanette, thank you so much! I’m so happy you stopped by!

    Laura, wow. *blushes* thanks.

    Life, actually more like the image fits the poem– I picked the photo to match the piece 😉

    Gordon, Thanks. but what about the rest of it? 😉 (KIDDING!)

    brian, Cindy, I always appreciate a visit from y’all. thanks for the read, and the thoughts.

    Myrna, Patt– thanks for commenting; you are more than welcome back any time. 🙂

    –jsl

  5. Great piece, I liked your poetry from the first time I read some, and this is no exception… but I have to quote the opening quintain as standing out here… wonderful. Thank you Joanna. That could stand as a profound short piece in itself.

    • Thanks, Luke. I always feel like praise from you is high praise indeed. 🙂 And I had also thought about letting the quintain speak for itself– maybe I will in future edits. Appreciate the thought. Cheers.

  6. When rivers die it is like they have been murdered. A parched dry river bed is the most desolate of nature’s corpses. Rivers and wetlands and ponds die all the time in Florida because of eutrification. It is good that Sidhartha’s river did not die because it taught him the river is always the same yet it it different from moment to moment.

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