"The Voice of the River" - Perry Barlow







"The Voice of the River" - Perry Barlow


From my bank stands a tree
that's one friend you left me
you tore the rest out
stacked sticks of steel
engineered a railway bridge
sent some poor fool 
to paint a picture of it
and called me conquered
assumed me simple then

when used to be 
you came to me
with buckets
the companion
of your daily breath
and the opposite too
strong men
were drowned in my currents
just trying to cross my body
your homes
were swallowed in my floods
your heads 
were dipped in my still waters
and when you emerged
you turned your faces to the sky
and declared yourselves saved
 
and now you don't even look at me
your high expressway hums above me
from one empty bank to the other
but that road can't sing 
not like me
my current still rippling along the bank
is beneath the earth
and the foundation of all things
Listen to me:
the bricks do not separate
so much from my mud
the land changes over generations
as the dead are stacked
upon the dead and buried
upon the dead and buried
upon the dead
and finally
softly drawn out to sea

so that old bridge
suspicious with arms folded
day and night rolling
with freight of iron and steel
and plastic
so fast
but the bolts have rusted in their holes
and all that has been raised
will crumble and fade
and you will roll yourselves in dry leaves
and return longing to my banks
and sing psalms
but for now,
speed on
I am old and I am slow
I can wait.


(Photo: The railroad bridge from Del Rio to Sanderson on the Pecos River, Texas 1881)
   

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