Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Towns We Know and Leave Behind, The Rivers We Carry With Us by Richard Hugo

A battered, tattered, curious old river dragonfly visiting me last summer.

I've spent most of my life along the Red River in Louisiana and this poem just brings out the river-love in me.  My uncle who raised us was a carpenter and fisherman and made a living from the river.  I often went with him to run the nets and he'd drop me off at a sandbar to play while he baited lines.  Today I live a few miles from the river but I think of it every day.   ~Marion, reading Anne Michaels on this rainy day in Louisiana.  xo

The Towns We Know and Leave Behind,
The Rivers We Carry with Us - By Richard Hugo

for James Wright

I forget the names of towns without rivers.
A town needs a river to forgive the town.
Whatever river, whatever town –
it is much the same.
The cruel things I did I took to the river.
I begged the current: make me better.

Your town, your river, or mine –
it is much the same.
A murdering man lives on the land
in a shack the river birds hate.
He rubs the red shriek of night from his eyes.
He prays to water: don’t let me do that again.

Let’s name your river: Ohio.
Let’s name all rivers one in the blood,
red stream and debris in the blood.
Say George Doty had a wrong head.
Say the Ohio forgives what George did
and the river birds loved his shack.
Let’s name the birds: heron and sweat.
Let’s get away from the mud.

The river is there to forgive the town
and without a river a town abuses the sky.
The river is there to forgive what I did.
Let’s name my river: Duwamish.
And let’s admit
the river birds don’t hate my home.
That’s a recent development, really
like mercury in the cod.

Without a river a town abuses the air.
The river is there to forgive what I did.
The river birds hate what I did
until I name them.
Your river or mine –
It is much the same.
A murdering man lived on the bank.

Here’s the trick;
We had to stay drunk
to welcome the river
to live in a shack
to die on the bank
beneath the bigoted sky
under the river birds
day after day
to murder away
all water that might die.

A murdering man is dead on the bank
of your new river, The East,
on mine, The Clark Fork.
It is much the same.
Your river has gulls and tugs.
Mine has eagles and sky.
I rub last night from my eyes.
I ask bright water what’s happened.

The river, I am not sure which one,
Says water has no special power.
What should I do?
Or you?

Now water has no need to forgive
what shall become of murder?
How shall we live
when we killed, when we died by the word?

Whatever the name of the river,
we both had two women to love,
one to love us enough we left behind
a town that abuses the day.
The other to love the river we brought with us,
the shack we lived and still live in,
the birds, the towns that return to us for names
and we give them names knowing the river
murders them away.


Far Beyond The Ridge said...

I was listening to thistle and shamrock (irish music) as i read this. It all seemed just what i needed on this sept morn.

Kelly said...

Good post, Marion, and spectacular photo!! Talk about a picture speaking a thousand words....

Far Beyond The Ridge said...

Oh god! Thank you sweet marion!
No word ver! Yahooo!
Have a great saturday

erin said...

today i brought the children to a stand of pine i go to often while i am on break. at first they rolled their eyes. i told them that somehow i feel clean when i go to the woods. when they saw the lines of trees they were overcome, enraptured. they ran and laughed out loud. they were clean. a river does much the same and yet what do we do to the rivers? and why are we always so violent with one another and our world even when we have no intention of being so?

this poem reminds me of a poem i read yesterday by sharon olds. we're sharing a lot of poetry these days, eh, marion)))


Then dirt scared me, because of the dirt
he had put on her face. And her training bra
scared me—the newspapers, morning and evening,
kept saying it, training bra,
as if the cups of it had been calling
the breasts up—he buried her in it,
perhaps he had never bothered to take it
off. They found her underpants
in a garbage can. And I feared the word
eczema, like my acne and like
the X in the paper which marked her body,
as if he had killed her for not being flawless.
I feared his name, Burton Abbott,
the first name that was a last name,
as if he were not someone specific.
It was nothing one could learn from his face.
His face was dull and ordinary,
it took away what I’d thought I could count on
about evil. He looked thin and lonely,
it was horrifying, he looked almost humble.
I felt awe that dirt was so impersonal,
and pity for the training bra,
pity and terror of eczema.
And I could not sit on my mother’s electric
blanket anymore, I began to have a
fear of electricity—
the good people, the parents, were going to
fry him to death. This was what
his parents had been telling us:
Burton Abbott, Burton Abbott,
death to the person, death to the home planet.
The worst thing was to think of her,
of what it had been to be her, alive,
to be walked, alive, into that cabin,
to look into those eyes, and see the human



Far Beyond The Ridge said...

My orange cat does the same thing. It is her one and only flaw.
Enjoy the cool nights, marion