Write to the River — Summer 2018 Prose & Poetry

Morning rain at Shadow Falls on its way to the Mississippi River. (Photo by Tom Reiter.) 

The Mississippi River is both a cyclical constant and powerful force of change. Our summer image inspired a beautiful selection of writing on how water shapes our landscape, reflects our stories and invites discovery.  

Write to the River is a creative writing project to inspire artistic engagement with our river environment. We invite everyone to share an original poem or short prose response to seasonal images along the Upper Mississippi River. Our next photo prompt and call for creative writing submissions will be in the September issue of our e-newsletter, "Mississippi Messages." 

Underground River

Each day I cross its path
Its twists and turns
  slicing the landscape
  with beauty and force
  born of icy floes and rocky banks
  on northern shores.

Suspended by structures
  created by human hands
My fragile body soars
  above water deep
    and rich
      and ancient
Full of stories I will never know.

The mystic* said:
“God is a great underground river.”
And the words cut through
  the mundane of my life,
A reminder of the power that throbs
  in current and channel,
  in Source and shoreline,
Bringing life in the gift of morning rain
Falling along shadowy bluffs,
Feeding the river that sustains us all.

*Meister Eckhart, 14th-century mystic
by Sally Howell Johnson

A Trickle at Shadow Falls

The tick and murmur of the water
is interrupted by an exuberant squeal
from a four-year-old standing behind
the falls.  Soon he and his dad hike out

leaving just me,
sitting on a rock, staring at water,
trying to have a worthy thought,
maybe about rock layers and deep time,

maybe about the great cycle … evaporation,
precipitation, etc., all those school book ideas
we substitute for a deeper knowing.
If anything more were needed here

maybe it would be someone like you
with your rangy imagination,
another mind to murmur with
between the water and trees.

Since we’ve never met it may take a while
for either of us to intrude on the magic.
But the little waterfall is patient.
It can loosen up even bedrock.

Tell me that thought you would share,
some notion in your head
like the one that is bubbling up right now,
almost ready to trickle out into daylight.

by Jim Larson

Morning. Rain. River.

Checking.  Checking weather-this, weather-that.  Rain?  Clouds?  Storms?  Checking my phone.  Nope.  Practice not canceled.  Yet.  The river waits.  Skies pewter, low.  The occasional dim shadow.  No rain. Not here.  Hi-viz cap, rain jacket, water bottle, keys.  And as soon as I pull away from my house, drops splatter the windshield.  No thunder.  I keep driving.  As always, crossing the Lake Street Bridge, I glance downstream, upstream.   No whitecaps.  By the time I have walked down to the other world that is the river, the rain is calmed, inviting, a steady shimmer feeding the water.  Downriver, shadowed back from the shore, the rain is a scrim, a screen, fills a stream, tiny tributary, spills over rocks, falls, finds its way to a new form.  We hoist our boats up and overhead, and up  —  quads, doubles —  to the docks roll to waist, down to river enter the Mississippi, glide into water below, water above, water, second skin.

by Suzanne Swanson

On its way

The steady state of change
The waterfall's trickling refrain
Grown by rain

A constant cycling, source releasing
Carved through seasons and ages,
River stages

Sinuous, hydrologically continuous
Individual droplets create this entity
Connected movement continually

O, like the river to embrace
Life's transitions with ever-flowing grace
Never arriving, but at rest.

by Christine Yaeger

Photo Synthesis

Elements beyond conception
  yet conceiving grand vision
Divining pleasure/peace
  upon perceiver

The reaching the grabbing
the seeking the settling
Intertwine concerting
Shows itself vividly
Illuminated by the eternal

Perceivers very essence
  contributes as penance
To creation
All consuming in grandeur

by John Thomas 

Tom Reiter