Write to the River — Summer 2019 Prose & Poetry

Summer on the Mississippi River. Hues from dense green leaves reflect upon the river, while a mother deer and her fawn go for a swim. (Photo by Tom Reiter)

Our summer Write to the River prompt featured a deer and her fawn swimming in the river, and we asked what brings you to the water during the warm season. The writing we received shares many reasons why: the Mississippi River is a friend, a place for special moments, and wellspring of hope, knowledge and resilience. We hope these writings inspire you.


Asking the Fawn

Did your mommy deer ever even ask
if you could swim, or would follow?
That's how it is I suppose

for your kind, born into the wild, 
not troubled when Nature
fosters an occurrence of the unnatural,

like your body discovering hope 
when your hooves could not touch bottom
and trusting you could walk on water.

At least water is a way to deal with
all the heat these days,
and all the days to follow.

Let us hope the heat of the future
will not be such that we all
need to swim for it.

By Jim Larson


In the Green River

In the green river
A fawn follows its mother
Summertime is here.

By Isabelle Kennedy, age 12


Water of My Heart

River, sometimes I feel so much like you: 
Bursting with life,
Swelling with feelings too big to bear, 
Fierce, protective, loving, terrified joy.

River, sometimes I feel so much ​for​ you:
Love for your beauty, awe for your endurance,
Fear for what we are doing to you:
To the trees and grasses who root in your banks,
To the deer and fish and birds who swim through your waters, 
To ourselves, who ask too much from you.

I don't have answers.
There are so many of us, and only one of you. 
But I vow that while I still have life,
I will give my heart and hands to you.

By Eli Effinger-Weintraub


Sounds of Stone Arch

Steady...steady...steady...ready? Go!
Walk toward me. That’s right. Look at each other.
Smile. Smile like you’re about to spend the rest of your lives together. Smile—that’s it!
Okay now, try laughing a little, and look at each other...perfect!
Ope, ‘scuse me.
That’s it. Perfect. Keep walking toward me.
Good, good, this is great.
On your left!
Okay now, on three, I want you both to jump as high as you can. Look at me now.
Ready? Steady. One...two...
Ope, ‘scuse me! 

By Elizabeth Star


    Our Beautiful Mississippi

 Walking forever, it seems, up the wide, wide river!
                           Wide and long!
   Amazing! After you walk a while-a long while,
                        you get a reward!!!
      When you get to the top, believe it or not,
        you can just walk across -no problem--
                       yeah, beautiful river!

By Lu Hammer

Dear River,

You are an old friend. A best friend.

It was delightful as always to see you again last week. You're always there for me and I do my best to be there for you as well in my stewardship of all that gives you life. As forever friends, to see you again is to have my heart lightened and my soul refreshed. Up and over the hill I approach your humble majesty and feel your presence as I have so many times since before I can even remember.

If patient, there is a sense of understanding between us. When I look straight down at you I understand the way you see me. When I look out across your breadth I see how you see all things. You are a reflection of the hills in Wisconsin. You are a mirror of the Eagles that again thrive all around you. You are the embodiment of the weather and the wind. Your power drives the fallen trees to places unknown. The fall leaves ride along on their leisurely journey. Egrets and turtles sit motionless waiting for you give them reason to move.

Even in snowy times you resist becoming motionless until the coldest of January seizes the surface. But underneath you’re alive and happy to fool the winter above. Ultimately winter gives way and your force again becomes the order of the day.

Your beauty and apparent calm belie the strength and resolve you send southward. 

For all these reasons I admire you and consider you to be my friend.


Your Humble Human Advocate

By Jon Huus

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

Tom Reiter