A Poem for River Sunday

Good Samaritan Norm Minnick authored the poem below for River Sunday, the final of our four Creation Season Sundays in June. Thanks for sharing your gifts with us, Norm!

THE POET SPEAKS OF RIVERS

after Langston Hughes

I, too, have known rivers.

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I’ve known rivers. Rivers that need to be crossed.

Don’t ask me to explain why.

 

I’ve stood beside rivers.

I’ve stood beside one river in particular, the Ohio, where I grew up

and marveled at its grandeur and simplicity,

its power and perseverance.

 

I’ve stood at the falls of the Ohio where no vessel could pass with ease.

I’ve stood among 300-million-year-old fossils preserved in limestone

and looked westward where the river curves silently in the dusk.

 

This river that Jefferson described as “the most beautiful river on Earth.”

Where Lewis and Clark shook hands, I stood resolute with recruited slaves,

including York, who lead the expedition and stands eight feet tall in my memory.

 

I’ve known rivers as means of passage

where Huck and Jim found friendship and freedom on the Mississippi,

where Kurtz navigated deeper and deeper into the darkness of his soul.

 

I’ve known other rivers, too. Rivers that serve as borders between bondage and freedom.

Rivers such as the Rio Grande where families cross fleeing tyranny

into the arms of another kind of tyranny, where children

are pulled from the embrace of mothers

into the arms of frowning strangers.

 

The salt of their tears does not blend with the waters of that river.

 

I’ve also known rivers that embody Christ.

Rivers that carry water as source of nourishment and rebirth.

 

I’ve known rivers like Psalms, and so plant myself beside this copious flow,

this abundance, this water of life.

 

And I dip my hands. I take nourishment and love into my hands,

for love, like water, stays with the person who holds it loosely,

as in an open, cupped hand, as opposed to the one

who tries to contain it, to grip it hard, to possess it.

That water cannot be entrapped.

 

I, too, have known rivers. Let us walk the shores. Let us enter now and again.

Let us hold hands.

 

Let us know rivers.

Let us be blessed and known.

 

—Norman Minnick