The River That Washes the World

painting of a river

Painting by Galya Velkova

In the last couple of months or so, the muse of poetry has not come by my house, even though I left the porch light on. I think I saw her down the street one day. She looked like she was going somewhere else, maybe waiting for Uber, because she kept checking her phone and then looking around.

So I haven’t written any poetry in weeks, nor do I feel any urge to do so. Fortunately, I’m not a poet, so it’s OK if I don’t write poems. The last one I wrote was about two months ago, and I thought I’d post it here, because: 1) I’m lazy, 2) it’s easy to do this, and 3) I’m…oh, I already mentioned lazy.

I also want to say something about the technique on this poem. When I wrote the first verse (which is now the fourth verse, revised), I discovered that the second and fourth lines didn’t exactly rhyme, but they did have a slight echo of sound (“dreams” and “rain”). That struck me as interesting, so I decided with every verse to intentionally use a semi-rhyme like that, a process that was just as much work as rhyming, maybe more.

Lucky for you, I changed my mind about going into more detail, talking about internal rhymes and voiced or voiceless consonants, blah blah blah. Who cares? Here’s a poem that strides gladly into the welcome darkness, and I offer my thanks to Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen for creating the space for me to write this poem.

Now Drink

Sit down in the place where all the kings died,
and the new kings will die in their turn,
amid luxury, grace, and elegant meals,
in the hall where the plotting occurs.

Sit down in the room where the Quakers once met
in the city that lived on its slaves,
where everyone knew who wore silk and who chains
and that time when the rope grew too frayed.

Sit down on the shore where people once sailed
far away and they never came back,
though their luggage still sits untouched in the sun,
with an old folded nautical map.

Sit down by the light of the fateful sunset,
in the meadow where hopes fade to dreams
of wolves that stand still at the edge of the dark,
or gray gods who appear in the rain.

Sit down by the river that washes the world,
with currents of good and bad luck.
Sit down by the water and hold out your hands,
and we’ll give you your own silver cup.

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