Four Things

First, I saw the video, and it reminded me of the painting, which reminded me of the photograph and a poem I had written some time ago. But I’ll give you the poem first, then the photograph, then the painting, then finally the video. This is the way my mind works, most of the time: the world becomes a continual series of links.

The River’s Daughter

She walks into the river
with rocks in her pockets,
and the water closes around her
like the arms of a father
saying hello, my lovely one,
hello.  How good to see you,
who have been away so long.

The eddying water
tugs at the hem of her dress,
and the small fish gather
to nibble at her ankles, at her knees,
to nibble at her fingers. They will find
it all edible, soon, except
the carnelian ring by which her sister
will identify her.

Bits of paper
float away, the ink now indecipherable.
Was it a note? Notes for another
novel she might have written, something new
to confound the critics?  They will cling
to the reeds, will be used
to line ducks’ nests, with the down
from their breasts. The water
rises to her shoulders, lifts her hair.

Come, says the river.  I have been waiting
for you so long, my daughter.
Dress yourself in my weeds,
let your hair float in my pools,
take on my attributes: fluidity,
the eternal, elemental flow
for which you always longed.
They are found not in words but water.
You will never find them while you breathe,
not in the world of air.

And she opens her mouth
one final time, saying father,
I am here.

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3 Responses to Four Things

  1. andrewjcooper says:

    Wow, that’s a powerful poem. I didn’t realize it was about Virginia Woolf until I saw her picture — that made it even more poignant. (Hope you enjoy teaching at Odyssey ’11, by the way.)

  2. Jane Kristiansen says:

    Beautiful and strong poem. I instinctively knew it was about Virginia Woolf after the first lines! I have read
    Woolfs diaries severel times over and love them. Reading the poem I felt vividly the last moments in her life.
    I read your blog with deligth.
    Kindly regards from Jane – Denmark.

  3. Sarah Brand says:

    I had never seen that video before. It reminded me not only of The Lady of Shalott (one of my favorite poems of all time, beyond a doubt), as it was obviously meant to, but also the part of Steppenwolf where the “Treatise on the Steppenwolf” is talking about the suicides. Steppenwolf, the video, Tennyson’s poem and yours… they all make death strangely beautiful, and I love that, even though I probably shouldn’t. So, thank you for making me think. 🙂

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