Union Creek in Winter

 
There’s no word for it so far, the word
for what it means to be in love with you
in our sinking world, what it means to hike
through new snow, to hear beneath
the glass of creek ice the flow of winter
percolating its way through the ravine
not quite soundlessly toward lower ground
to join the wild roar of the American River.

The word that means we’ve loved
through the avalanches of our time,
loved while the wars raged, paid for
with our taxes, loved while our loved ones
voted for hatred, protected as they’ve been
by their skin white as this very snow draped
on hemlocks in the ravine’s wavering light.

The word that means we’re not alone,
we share that same nature wonder,
for the flicker tapping on a far-off tree,
the delicate calligraphy of a mouse’s
prints along our path, as if Tu Fu
has been here too, who knew, even then,
even in the Tang Dynasty, beauty
leaves behind its faint notations.

The word that means we will go on,
we will follow an earlier trekker’s snowshoe
trail, slog on bundled to keep the chill
from overtaking us, descend again steeply,
then climb again switchbacks above the creek
away from its cold murmurings, to our car
and the long drive back to the war zone
of now. Armed with our little courage,

we must drive straight to the front,
strap on flak jackets and begin the slow
search for survivors, slow search
for the words that might revive them.
Even now we’re feverish to make contact,
to know what to listen for, to learn to hear
those muffled cries from deep in the rubble.
If we knew the words we might save

those most weakened, most in danger of giving up.
If we knew the words we might keep the world,
its rivers, its ice, its bitterroot, its winter wrens,
its hemlocks, its moonlight, its children,
its Shakespeare, its Szymborska, its rosehips,
its green and orange lichens, its Dylan,
its kora players, its humming birds, you,
me, and our Muslim neighbor, Maya, alive.

 

 

  

Edward HarknessPoet Edward Harkness is the author of Saying the Necessary and Beautiful Passing Lives, both from Pleasure Boat Studio press. His most recent collection, Ice Children, a chapbook of 18 poems, was published by Split Lip Press in 2014. He lives in Shoreline, Washington.
 
 
 

Header photo of creek in winter courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Edward Harkness courtesy Edward Harkness.

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5 Responses

  1. kevin miller

    Armed with our little courage,
    we must drive straight to the front,

    Thanks for the strength in this poem. Lovely.

    Reply
  2. Randy Harkness

    Moving, spot-on topical. The silence of the snow-surround creek a counter balance to an unsettling world. One of your very best, Ed.

    Reply
  3. jim bodeen

    Water from the American River washing over me this morning. Lacy Dreamwalker’s ashes rushing through my fingers. If I knew the words we might keep the world.

    Reply
  4. Ned

    Another masterpiece. I hear hints and allusions to a familiar world and a life I recognize.

    Reply

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