Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Towns We Know and Leave Behind, The Rivers We Carry with Us



The Towns We Know and Leave Behind,
The Rivers We Carry with Us

— for James Wright

I forget the names of towns without rivers.
A town needs a river to forgive the town.
Whatever river, whatever town –
it is much the same.
The cruel things I did I took to the river.
I begged the current: make me better.

Your town, your river, or mine –
it is much the same.
A murdering man lives on the land
in a shack the river birds hate.
He rubs the red shriek of night from his eyes.
He prays to water: don’t let me do that again.

Let’s name your river: Ohio.
Let’s name all rivers one in the blood,
red stream and debris in the blood.
Say George Doty had a wrong head.
Say the Ohio forgives what George did
and the river birds loved his shack.
Let’s name the birds: heron and sweat.
Let’s get away from the mud.

The river is there to forgive the town
and without a river a town abuses the sky.
The river is there to forgive what I did.
Let’s name my river: Duwamish.
And let’s admit
the river birds don’t hate my home.
That’s a recent development, really
like mercury in the cod.

Without a river a town abuses the air.
The river is there to forgive what I did.
The river birds hate what I did
until I name them.
Your river or mine –
It is much the same.
A murdering man lived on the bank.

Here’s the trick;
We had to stay drunk
to welcome the river
to live in a shack
to die on the bank
beneath the bigoted sky
under the river birds
day after day
to murder away
all water that might die.

A murdering man is dead on the bank
of your new river, The East,
on mine, The Clark Fork.
It is much the same.
Your river has gulls and tugs.
Mine has eagles and sky.
I rub last night from my eyes.
I ask bright water what’s happened.

The river, I am not sure which one,
Says water has no special power.
What should I do?
Or you?

Now water has no need to forgive
what shall become of murder?
How shall we live
when we killed, when we died by the word?

Whatever the name of the river,
we both had two women to love,
one to love us enough we left behind
a town that abuses the day.
The other to love the river we brought with us,
the shack we lived and still live in,
the birds, the towns that return to us for names
and we give them names knowing the river
murders them away.

Richard Hugo

Looks like we are heading back to Bluffton this weekend for the fall float and leaf watching. Love this poem.

2 comments:

Churlita said...

I'm sad I can't go on the trip. Have fun and watch that crazy lady you'll be driving there with. I have a feeling she'll be exhausted.

Dexter said...

She was good. I think it may have caught up with her after pool league.