Where Do Rivers Begin?
Where do rivers begin?
I’ve never been remotely interested in
wide-mouthed estuaries where fresh meets salt,
where rivers must halt,
knowing that soon enough, on some fated day,
I’ll be sailing that way, skailing
into the ocean of eternity.
For now, I want to foot it back
along the dreary rooted banks,
those tangled briary paths near towns,
bollarded road ends, industrial estates
blocked by burned out cars,
coal - stained strands and sewage pipes,
short-lived silver sands of pleasure beach,
plumbing the mud flats like an arthritic heron
until I see the river bridged and narrowed.
Then further back and in
below stone arches spanned by Telfer and Wade
to the black and foaming tumbling
where the tourists hang over to gawp
at the ranting and rumbling falls,
then further back yet . . .
a swift bend up a glen, up a burn,
be it in Leadhills or Himalayas,
where a startled sheep bolts in alarm
past the ruins of a farm heaped in a broken ruckle . . .
. . . finally to be able
to straddle its clear cable and trickle.
Then up, steeper still
to where cloud smoors hill
on a summit of bubbling capillaries.
It’s there in the boggy mess and black loam
that Nature condenses her tear on a stone
for a birth and a death.
I might stop the ocean here.