We are, always, ever moving forward...
|Leaf-dappled Ramapo River winding
through low ridged toes at the foot of my mountain.
Canoe-paddle rings glinting like jewels in the sun;
spreading ever outward in our wake.
We had never been canoeing together before,
yet unspoken communication was verbalized only in
strength of paddle push, in swirl of paddle twist,
in choosing side, to drag or pull,
in reading current, rock and break;
ballet of movement, concert of teamwork,
a knowing or reading, perhaps, of each other’s movement—
mountain-streaming musical moments
where white waters frothed, or easy currents drifted.
That time on the river, in my mind,
was just how a relationship should be:
that sense of balance, the give and take,
the working together towards journey's end.
For though we shared same canoe,
he was in the stern, charting our direction—
there and elsewise.
On shore, compass points diverged:
he was my true north; towards me
he felt no pull at all.
At one point we rested at water’s edge.
Easy, easy conversation swirled and eddied
from this to that—it seemed so simple, so right
yet I was never in his focus,
his heart’s eye lay miles northward.
I watched a lone leaf float
pulled by relentless current,
gazed at mallard couple swimming,
choosing their direction.
He commented on the sound of the breeze,
on clouds scudding by. The jeweled glints faded
into shadows. The river changed.
We paddled for the landing downstream
in attempt to beat the storm.
We laughed in the pouring rain pulling the canoe to land.
It was only water, after all.
Crossing a bridge over the water on the way back
I noticed how the river looked different somehow.
It was only later I realized you never see the same river twice
and the river never stops.
My heart floated that day before drowning
yet I never regretted it.
Far better to have chased the current
than hidden in the shadows,
even if he never saw the shine.
Years, lifetimes passed before I saw him again:
alone in his canoe in a river raging with the debris
of shattered hopes and disregarded dreams.
He had no paddle, no rudder,
and a broken compass.
It still pointed north—
but north was no longer a direction.
A leaf blown at the whims of the wind.
I braved the current and we swam together
to an afternoon of solitude.
The river had changed again
but we were on different streams,
and the river never stops.
Sometimes, in quiet moments
when the course of my life
is damned with ex-indiscretions
or muddied by confusion,
I ponder the ‘if onlys’ for a brief space of time,
but then realize how different the river might be;
how tangled the deltas, how rocky the shore.
What I have that wouldn’t have been,
or, like the river,
seen in totally different light.
I have no idea what river carries him now.
I can but hope he paddles not alone,
shares the course, a common direction.
Perhaps in mountain’s shadow,
in lands carved by wind and song.
I wish him a water-tight canoe and gentle waters
because the river never stops.
Found this poem in a sheaf of papers in an old trunk in the basement. I originally wrote this thirty years ago. Recently, thanks to Facebook, I reconnected with my old friend. And the river flows switly onwards. :)