Wednesday Poem

Maudslay Park

The riverbank and its reflection move
downstream together, one stirred by wind
but steady in its tangle of boughs and patches
of fading light, one jangled by current,
trembling like the strings of a struck harp.

Or rather, neither moves; only the flat
scales of the river jostle and tilt their way
seaward forever, slowing, reluctant
there at the shallows, dividing and shearing
into coils that stream away around rock snouts.

The riverbank rises; candlestick trees
lit by late sun shelter the last cold birds.
Its reflection dives into another blue
with steel in it, cobalt and mercury;
there the boughs are made and unmade without end.

Above us, beyond the pocket our breath inhabits,
light gives way: unimaginable black
as far as thought will go, and farther.
Beneath us, dark millstones drag the continents
gritty, agonized inches through drowned bones.

Standing beside this shore, we are all moving—
we, the trees, the solid metallic river—
all particles twirling, rebounding, thinnest cloud
peppered by a rain of electric skydust
that needles through the planet with one stitch.

But at this moment, caught in a web of motion
we play at stillness, imagine ourselves
imagining the sun, the riverbank
and its reflection, behind us the cries
of gulls and children, the voices of friends.

by Rhina P. Espaillat
from The Able Muse, Autumn 1999