I had such a great response to my poetry break last week, I thought I would make it a mostly regular feature 🙂

Last Saturday night I got to watch fireworks from the middle of the Susquehanna river and I remembered how much I love proximity to water. Rivers, waterfalls and little creeks that meander through the woods carry stories and history along their shores.

So enjoy a couple of river poems from Langston Hughes and Billy Collins, two forces of nature themselves!

The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes

I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

and surprisingly apropos

Fishing on the Susquehanna in July by Billy Collins

I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna
or on any river for that matter
to be perfectly honest.

Not in July or any month
have I had the pleasure–if it is a pleasure–
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

I am more likely to be found
in a quiet room like this one–
a painting of a woman on the wall,

a bowl of tangerines on the table–
trying to manufacture the sensation
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

There is little doubt
that others have been fishing
on the Susquehanna,

rowing upstream in a wooden boat,
sliding the oars under the water
then raising them to drip in the light.

But the nearest I have ever come to
fishing on the Susquehanna
was one afternoon in a museum in Philadelphia

when I balanced a little egg of time
in front of a painting
in which that river curled around a bend

under a blue cloud-ruffled sky,
dense trees along the banks,
and a fellow with a red bandanna

sitting in a small, green
flat-bottom boat
holding the thin whip of a pole.

That is something I am unlikely
ever to do, I remember
saying to myself and the person next to me.

Then I blinked and moved on
to other American scenes
of haystacks, water whitening over rocks,
even one of a brown hare
who seemed so wired with alertness
I imagined him springing right out of the frame.

Water music: Come Sail Away (Styx — ok, it’s cheesy — think of HS and summer nights out at the lake); Weather and Water (the Greencards); Waterfall (Wendy & Lisa); Ripple (Grateful Dead); Cool, Cool River (Paul Simon); Steamboat Docks (Fred Gillen, Jr); Speed of Sound (Coldplay — it sounds like water running through a sluice gate, but in a good way); Dulcimer Stomp/The Other Side (Aerosmith — from the Pump album); We Both Go Down together (Decemberists); Take me to the River (Talking Heads); Fallen from the Sky (Glen Hansard from Once) and for sheer fun the Crawdad song (Doc Watson has a great version).

Take care,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s