- Cantus for Still Water
This business of water flowing always toward some farther-off place— I’m beginning to think it’s no accident.
If we walked up that road and watched firs beside it turn to dust, if we stood stock-still and listened, the slow breaking-apart of stones would tell us how it is with our lives,
and we would come at last to this stream, surface streaked and riffled, one of the ocean’s dreaming thoughts.
What I’m hoping is here we are born as the earth. What I’m hoping: things indifferent to us will save us in the end.
Say what you want to, everything here is scripture— the way water slides from alder leaves, the way small waves wash a streambed rock, the way the outstretched arm of that conifer brushes the current, longing to follow the water downstream.
All I know today: I want to be rain. [End Page 66]
You know how it is— you walk onto a bridge, look downstream, then up and up again, and keep looking upstream while the inexhaustible river flows into you, fills you, promises everything: bright birds singing, angels bringing coffee with cream, songs that skim gold from molten lead. But you, not convinced, glance across the bridge to where the grade descends, and the river races away.
Astonishing how lake becomes river, how the first faint stir of current forms, a push of wonder out of stillness, emerges from clear, silent water to dance its descent, taming the sharp corners surely in a language we all understand.
It takes no time to be lake but this river scouring the banks for cargo makes me believe it’s possible, my life. I pick out stones, plans, drop in hours. What I mean to have I can. I only need movement and something I forget. [End Page 67]
So why just now as I walk the edge content, almost, does desire lift me toward the unthinking lake? It knows only itself. Wanting it is like waiting for a lover who doesn’t come.
Never mind, the river says, current’s the cure for shadows, then rounds the corner and falls, in shock into indifferent ocean. [End Page 68]
Robert Rice has stories and poems in numerous literary magazines, including Hayden’s Ferry, New Letters, The North American Review, The Saint Ann’s Review, Quiddity, and West Wind Review. He has also published three novels, including the highly acclaimed The Last Pendragon (1992). He lives in Montana.