Leap, River, Toward Sky

By Maxine R. Jennings

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    1st Place Poetry Contest

    You, said my father in the forever of my youth,

    Are like a river seething on a slate-blue morning.

    Your malcontent reinforced by a cloudburst,

    Your strength full and surging with eagerness, you shout,

    May the regiments of birch and willow be defeated!

    Down with banks!

    But like unyielding walls, my stalwarts towered on my right

    And on my left; and they channeled my rushing.

    Now, calm in a tall noon, I know about rivers.

    For once I saw an armed and arrogant stream

    Proclaim its triumph and promote itself to waterscape

    In a muscle-wild invasion of everywhere.

    Banks tumbled in chaos, weeds waded in shallows—

    And a valley lay prostrate under gray waters

    Knocking, shuddering, muttering zeros,

    While the cracked dome of heaven wept, no shore, no shore.

    Then the voice of the lost water rang with the words of my father,

    And I recalled the wisdom of banks.

    Bewildered in brassy hours, I think about rivers:

    Another young stream, caught in the fren of his youth,

    Presses to escape containing.

    How this river, loud in its rush from beginning,

    Argues with banks—pounds them with watery protests,

    Attacks them with waves, with waves!

    Away with these absurdities

    That tower on the right and on the left

    To confine and to coil these waters.

    And the river recruits from the mountain

    Other young streams waving foam banners and shouting.

    Their logic demands the instant repeal of banks—

    Is not river, whose form is the form of all rain,

    Worthy of sun on more surface, more flowing room?

    Let the hammered air report these banks’ unyielding:

    Surge, river, and meet frustration.

    Shout in your fullness—bellow overflow slogans.

    Boast of your depth with your cataracts of half-reason.

    Hurl your threats and your havoc, your wrath livid with current.

    Certain in their holding are the stalwarts that tower

    On the right and on the left; they will channel your rushing,

    Till the valley for miles around is electric and light silvers the darkness.

    Leap, river, toward sky; you are spilling freshlets

    That lilt and linger on a tilting field,

    And there is singing in the valley and plenty in the land.

    Is there not also gratitude for banks?