Like my ancestors before me, I love rivers. The peace of running water always calms me, watching it ripple past slowly, hearing the murmur of the water over rocks and branches and the swish of it against the banks, spying the many lives that live along the river--fish, turtles, snakes, muskrats, beavers, hawks, and eagles. For millennia, my people have always chosen to settle near rivers.
When I was growing up, I was taught to go to water when troubled or ill. Running water is strong medicine, good medicine. We pray next to it, and then use it to wash away whatever is troubling our hearts, minds, or bodies. Sometimes a creek or brook will work for me, but if I'm truly heartsick, I seek out a river.
This poem is another in a series of poems that I have posted to celebrate National Poetry Month. It is an exploration of this practice of going to water when troubled. In the worst kind of pain and grief, sometimes only a river can provide any release. For a healing ceremony, one needs to build a fire, say the right prayers, make an offering, but sometimes in the worst straits, it can be simply you and the river.
I GIVE YOU TO RIVER
Turning to the water for release
from my troubles, from you,
I write your name in my palm with my finger,
then brush off the invisible letters
into the river currents passing at my feet.
I ask River to carry them out of my heart and mind,
carry them away from my life, remove all that darkness
that is you infesting my mind against my will,
replaying memories that were nothing
but playacting on your part,
though my heart tries to find excuses,
for all the deliberate pain.
I have to face it finally—there are none.
Hard to believe, but even harder to find
I still long for you.
This stubborn heart won’t give up.
So I barricade it, keep it safe from its stupid fidelity,
while I wait for River to carry out magic,
carry your name and games far from me,
set me free finally with the power of moving water,
my own inborn element,
which carves memories of trauma from the earth itself
and leaves wondrous scars.
Published in Dark Sister (Mammoth Publications, 2018)