Tributaries (poem)

I was offline most of — well, now I’ll say yesterday, Saturday, it now being early in the AM of Sunday the 14th.  Saturday was the kick-off of this year’s PrideFest in Anchorage — the annual women’s show called Celebration of Change, & I performed in it again for the first time in 10 years.  This was the 25th C of C, I think my 9th or 10th show, since I was pretty much a regular (as well as a founding organizer) in its early years.  This post is for the first poem I performed tonight, “Tributaries.”  The second poem I did was posted a few weeks ago, on May 17 — “Sermon.” Some of my other poems on this site can be found by following under the subcategory of Field of Words called, sensibly enough, Poems.

I met Rozz in rehearsals for the 1993 Celebration of Change; we became friends through the show, & later partners.  Rozz had been a military brat & spent most of her life before meeting me moving around a lot.  I wrote this poem a year or so after we got together.  Now 16 years later, for complex reasons having nothing to do with any failure or loss of love between us, Rozz, now Ptery, is wandering again.

Wherever you are right now, this poem & my love go out to you, Ptery, who stood awhile beside me / overlooking.


You are like a twig someone once, long time ago,
tossed idly in the creek to watch you ride the cold clear water
in the eddies, momentarily, above the rounded stones,
till the current swept you downstream, ‘round an elbow, out of sight,
and forgotten.

Long you rode the waters, creek to creek, stream to stream,
stopping only transitorily — hitched on a muddy bank,
or wattled in a beaver’s lodge, or frozen, captive, icebound
till breakup cracked the river, swelled it with spring flood and flotsam,
and you moved on.

Who knew you would lose you, and what you knew you lost,
gone bygone upon the water’s strong inexorable pull —
one moment near, far the next, not fully grasped, not wholly held —
so you learned to love not closely except water’s clarity,

I leaned above the stream. My leaves created shade
on the riffles, in the pools where openmouthed the grayling held
for drifting ants, stonefly larvae. Cotton floated down amid
still willows, rippled water — relativity reflected
on the surface.

And you hooked around the bend, bobbing into view,
and snagged up on my roots. The rushing stream pushed you ashore
where, beached upon the sandy bottom silt, you took a roothold,
provisionally stayed, perhaps to stand awhile beside me


Note: For those who are, like me, prosody geeks: this is a nonce syllabic poem. Nonce basically means it’s a one-time form usually invented by the poet.  Syllabic has to do with the number of syllables per line.   In this case, I used the same number of syllables in the same line of each stanza. I also created a requirement for myself of using at least one five-syllable word in each stanza.  How completely geeky of me.

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