These poems were submitted for the spring 2017 contest themed category judged by Charles Goodrich, but were omitted from Verseweavers 22. Any future reprints of Verseweavers 22 will include the Oregon/Pacific Northwest category. They will also be Included in the upcoming Verseweavers 23 to be published late spring 2019.
Writing on Rivers
by Steve Jones
Coming into the room in a rush,
my students gently tease me:
SR, are we going to write
about rivers again today?
How people have forever camped beside rivers,
and how many different rivers
we’ve “gotten on our skin”––
even after we’ve spoiled them with affluent,
how rivers served as first highways,
how anadromous fish migrate full-length,
how obsidian cobbles and grains of sand
travel hundreds of miles to oceans and seas?
How we so often slake our thirst
at these snowmelt streams,
how rivers flow beneath the river
and how ancient stories tumble along
with the riverine winds?––other students ask.
How rivers become estuaries,
and how rickling water plays songs?
How standing water is a constant,
while rivers are a study in change?
Students continue teasing me as they take
their seats and begin to write
a river of freewritten words, stopping
occasionally to shake out a hand cramp
and then flowing on.
Judge’s comments: I admire the many ways the writing here mimics the rushing, pool-and-drop of a river. Each clause is a tumbling cascade followed by a full stop/question mark, and a slack water pause. The author smuggles in a lot of insights about human-river relationships, too. And the neologism “rickling” fits.
Steve Jones co-directs the Oregon Writing Project Collaborative at George Fox University, meets weekly with a poetry writing circle and husbands a thirty-acre Oregon woods.