the bears and Yeats would know _ Roethke
I have gone to the river many times,
to the slow waters that curl among their stones
With absolute certainty, to the small voices,
That emerge from the granite’s fissures, whispers
Of the deep pool below the falls, ripples
That pulsate outward, like the blind
Feeling their way through the dark, the first word
Beginning to form, the primal word
Beneath all languages, the utterance of snow,
The silence lurking in the cedars,
The unseen map of the otter’s journey.
Was it a bear that I saw one night
Sliding downhill on a cardboard sled
Toward the county dump? He too belongs
To those older waters, to the bog
Teeming with scents at the base of the mind,
The ice on which one ventures out
Cautiously, one step at a time,
to those lonely rivers that wonder through cornfields
Like drunks, seeking a passage to the sea,
To the bones that litter the prairies of the Dakotas
Where the wind moans, causing the ghosts
Of Sioux ponies to lift their heads.
I know I love best the small
Brooks that come down from alpine meadows
After Winter’s low ebb, wildflowers in bloom
Beside their banks, headwaters of the Colorado
And the Missouri, the trout in them iridescent
As lost jewels. I can sit here for hours
without a thought, watching the water pass by.
A part of me goes out with it.
It might as well be my soul is water.
Already it has gone many miles!
Flowing on into the orchards of the lowlands
Whose pale blossoms drift on the current
Like those that once filled the funeral barge
Of an unknown king.
By Jay Griswold