River has a silver string that runs its length,
holds it to a source in the mountains.
River cradles its corded muscles of water
between high banks, giving the banks no thought
as it bites them with eddies,
eroding their lower flanks.
River thinks it is only water and the gristle
of currents, haystacking surfaces
and deep, bellowing falls
running for the sea, though
it does not know it is there.
River should take more care of its banks.
Banks are what hold it a river, give
direction, keep it mitering downward.
Without banks, river loses its way,
becomes a swamp and stills.
All my life I have chafed at river banks,
fighting to spread my currents
in whatever turn needed exploring.
The high song of freedom seemed
to be a music of 'no banks',
and yet the whole joy of rivers is pushing,
etching the banks to join the flow,
but having them hold.
This poem first appeared in The Marin Poetry Center Anthology (2010).
Used here with the author’s permission.