while the river is low

Making it over the bridge will be new to him and you won’t be there when it happens. You draw the map, discuss the weather—which birds will be in the trees. You hope for a black crow, for him. He thinks: wild turkey.

Walking the gravel bars, you no longer remember all the times you’ve waited for the river to fill, the bridges you didn’t cross. The random things you’ve  learned  to miss: the sound of a dial tone, the memory of your home phone number on your fingertips. The ratty orange coat your mother wore after you left for college. You think about retracing your steps—wasn’t that an agate you saw near the rusted bumper caught in the dried-up beaver dam? There, in the Russian olive grove, wasn’t that the sound of crying—please, do you have to go? Funny how everything gets mixed up, but no—that’s the sound a pheasant makes when running for deeper cover.

Some people ask other people: Where do you come from and where do you hope to go? But you? Lately, you’ve been asking others what they think about pain. Maybe if you practice for it, you’ll never be surprised. You think pain is the dry river bottom waiting for snow-melt, but Astroguy—you remember what he said: Lean into pain just as you would the wind. Except, today the wind is gone.

Pain : At least it is familiar. (R. A.)

Pain: Unexplainable pain is worse. (V. B.)

Pain: Somewhere Over the Rainbow makes you wish—that’s what pain is. (D. R.)

Pain: First time I ever said I love you, I chased it with fuck-you. (J. G.)

Pain: Ever notice how funerals ruin a good day? (Frankie in the lobby)

Billie, the black and white border collie is retrieving sticks you didn’t toss, and when the first stick he offers doesn’t get your attention, he’s quick to find another. And another. Until—hello!—you realize he’s been waiting for you to pay attention. Where he is finding fresh green sticks on a dry river bed is beyond you and his owner. How in the? Where in the?

And then you hear a clunk. Or maybe more of a thunk. Either way, dog, owner and you look up: two boys on the far shore wave. Billie gives chase—what a good dog he is, knowing he’s not to swim across the river. He runs back with the stick, and this time you throw it across the water. Game on! the boys laugh and toss the stick back to your gravel bar.



About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website: https://toomuchaugust.wordpress.com

20 responses to “while the river is low

  1. Rose Hunter

    There are wild turkeys in the trees here atm. Chacalacas! A Macaw Man leaned out the window above and made a mawing sound when he saw me coming back with groceries, and pointed: chacalacas (true). But back to your post…. Learning to miss things is interesting. I think I do that too. Sometimes I look for something to miss. Like saying “I miss you” to a person who is in the same town and it would be easy not to miss them really, if that’s what you wanted. I am getting sidetracked. But why wait for the river to fill before crossing the bridge. Maybe you don’t mean that. It is a question I am asking myself this morning though, maybe.

    • redmitten

      oh my gosh, this whole comment from you is wonderful. it’s your poem before you work the line breaks. chacalacas! i have a friend who used to live in the country, moved out here from the coast, and was surprised that the trees around her little cabin were filled with turkeys every morning. one day she went outside to pack her car and was mauled by a bob cat and shrieked and managed to beat it off her. she went back into the cabin with her bloody hip and her hubby didn’t bat an eye, said yeah yeah he had heard her but thought she was hollering because she saw a mouse. totally random reply to your gorgeous reply.

      this: sometimes i look for something to miss….that runs the river deep.

      and i am not sure about waiting for the river to fill to cross the bridge. i think we can have a lot of fun with this! 🙂

      • Rose Hunter

        Oh my, re the bobcat. I thought the chacalacas were going to jump down and help out maybe….
        I think so too, re the fun…. Hey, it’s kind of like not being done waiting? Maybe. I cannot cross that bridge yet because the river isn’t full…. I will sit HERE…. Thank you. ? Heh.

      • redmitten

        you’ve brought this full circle! i am not done waiting yet, the river has still to fill.

  2. Rose Hunter

    I love this sentence too: “Funny how everything gets mixed up, but no—that’s the sound a pheasant makes when running for deeper cover.”

    Thanks for the inspiration this morning. I HEART your blog, as you know, but thought I’d re-say. I even boxx it! 🙂 🙂 GORGE.

    • redmitten

      heh- that is a good sentence to accidentally overhear (take out of context and put it somewhere else). it’s part of the chatter that goes on in my head on any given day. and i am glad you heart this. as i heart the boxx site!

  3. Learning to miss,
    rehearsing spontaneity,
    parching the riverbed
    so you can lean into
    the lacking.

    Apologies for taking off on what your words stimulated in me.

    • redmitten

      kass- oh no apologies! i was so pleased to read this and see that you totally lifted the poetry in this. yes! lean into the lacking- yes, that is what it sometimes takes. oh and parching the riverbed. i hope to see that in your blog one day soon!

  4. Don’t know what’s lower at the moment, S, the river or me, so this post hit just the right note. I was in the woods translating the birds on your inspiration. Enjoyed that. Thanks, as ever . . .

    • redmitten

      t- when i wrote about the low river i thought it might be your river, too. hearing from you shores my banks (so to speak) 🙂 and i think i get more from reading your comments than you say you get from my posts. speaking of translating birds- i will have to look at the title of the book next time i am home, but there is a passage about a man witnessing a bird’s nest being robbed of baby birds. the babies are killed. the mother bird is in high distress and her cries throughout the forest are heart wrenching. and when the mother bird cries her fill, at first she is silent. but then? she fills the forest with her song. the writer comments that we could all learn how to forget(?) pain the way the birds do. now that i’ve done a bad job of sharing the story, i will track the good version down and share it with you when i find it. but i think of that passage often when i find myself working at ways to rise, to heal, to forgive, to forget. as ever . . .

  5. We’re having such a beautiful week of weather here in the great northeast it’s a sin not to break out in a small ditty. Heart like the tide, low at night, high when the sun is up and the sky this blue. Wish there was a way to add a photo here. The lilacs are at least a month ahead of themselves. The leaves, heart-shaped when full, spring from the buds like green flames. The parable of the mother bird, good . . . she tears a hole through the forest with her grief, then falls silent. For a second, stay with that silence . . . honor it (as a friend taught me).

    Then give way to song.

    • redmitten

      lilacs now! we tend to see them in late may. you can email the photo (and if you allow, i can share it here after i get it). and what a lesson to realize from the lilac leaves springing forth from green flames.

      “then give way to song” is something to chant to myself every morning. thanks for that.

      • It’s usually May for us too. No blooms yet, but buds bursting into leaf and the first hint of what will be the flowers, way ahead of schedule. Usually at this time of year the lilacs are still curled up tight in the roots, just beginning to stir. Feels like third week of April here, not March.

      • redmitten

        this is so lovely: feels like the third week of april. spoken by someone connected to earth!

  6. Always glad to visit you here.

  7. wuffda

    Can you recall your childhood home phone number? Probably the very first piece of technological data you learned….

    • redmitten

      we didn’t have an address, a number on our house. and we wore dog tags with our important information on it. but it was years before i could understand what “next of kin” meant.

  8. wuffda

    may I borrow your childhood too?

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