because while some truths lend themselves to equations, others are best described in verse

when rivers die

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

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

rivers die,
there is
a silence
of stones.

They keep watch
over what was,
each raindrop
in their stolid way,
of waterfall

18 responses

  1. dustus

    of waterfall

    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.

    June 7, 2011 at 11:18 pm

  2. Jeanette Gallagher

    Nature in the rare and rawness of its beauty. Wonderful poem. Thank you.

    June 7, 2011 at 11:24 pm

  3. 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…

    June 7, 2011 at 11:25 pm

  4. I love the overriding stillness and silence you make so visual here…bravo!

    June 8, 2011 at 12:24 pm

  5. Exquisitely woven words….perhaps my favorite osw entry this week. Thank you .

    June 8, 2011 at 1:44 pm

  6. the description fits the picture splendidly, though you had me at “when the rivers die” 🙂

    June 8, 2011 at 4:17 pm

  7. I thought the first 2 stanzas were excellent.

    June 8, 2011 at 4:37 pm

  8. When rivers die. I love how you captured such deep sensitivity, in your vivid words. This is beautiful, though sad.

    June 8, 2011 at 5:19 pm

  9. 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

    June 8, 2011 at 8:03 pm

  10. 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. 🙂


    June 9, 2011 at 8:57 am

  11. 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.

    June 9, 2011 at 10:57 am

    • 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.

      June 20, 2011 at 1:40 pm

  12. when river dies,a culture dies. like you wrote,there will be silence.
    good lines.
    see the link,

    June 18, 2011 at 12:36 am

    • thanks for the link to the beautiful picture. sad to think of so much wild beauty vanishing.

      June 20, 2011 at 1:38 pm

      • thank you,it was a random snap…

        August 27, 2011 at 1:55 pm

  13. 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.

    June 20, 2011 at 2:33 pm

  14. when rivers die
    their shadows still flow,
    of the past glow …

    July 15, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    • 🙂 Lovely, Blaga. Thanks for sharing here.

      July 18, 2011 at 10:02 am


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