In a life properly lived, you’re a river. You touch things lightly or deeply; you move along because life herself moves, and you can’t stop it; you can’t figure out a banal game plan applicable to all situations; you just have to go with the “beingness” of life, as Rilke would have it.
Jim Harrison is one of my gurus. His work opens me up every time I return to it. There is a directness to his writing, a feeling of having whittled one’s self down to the essential. Being a poet of rivers myself, his words above are kindred.
He may also be the closest we have to that other great poet of rivers, Li Po, who, legend has it, died embracing the moon – at least the reflection of it he saw one night on the face of a river.
In the following poem, from his book Saving Daylight, Jim takes us a littler further down the river, to where we may have been all along.
Water – Jim Harrison
Before I was born I was water.
I thought of this sitting on a blue
chair surrounded by pink, red, white
hollyhocks in the yard in front
of my green studio. There are conclusions
to be drawn but I can’t do it anymore.
Born man, child man, singing man,
dancing man, loving man, old man,
dying man. This is a round river
and we are her fish who become water.