Blue, or not blue, clear at the shift,
uneasy surfaces meddling with slicks,
antlered logs and shavings of wind:
the river god, quick in all his hatreds.
Jealous of skies, or of nothing;
remembering his daughters only
to thwart them when they might be finding friends.
He is hard to love, the river, in all his petty malice.
He blusters and fumes at bridges,
makes empty threats, leers up skirts,
shakes his slimy beard and hides, shivering,
panicked by tug or pebble,
in the reed-bed. To tell the truth he stinks:
he's needed a change of clothes this age and more.
There's whiskey on his breath, or worse.
And yet his blood is ours, he sucks
all the springs of the valley. We feel his cold lips
bruising our throats in Spring;
our hearts hesitate when he takes
a rattling breath; and we know
when the time comes
grumbling and swearing, he'll roll us – bolts
of gray meat tied with gristle string –
down his muddy drain and out to sea.