River Profile

Out of a bellicose fore-time, thundering
   head-on collisions of cloud and rock in an
   up-thrust, crevasse-and-avalanche, troll country,
   deadly to breathers,
   it whelms into our picture below the melt-line,
   where tarns lie frore under frowning cirques, goat-bell,
   wind-breaker, fishing-rod, miner’s-lamp country,
   already at ease with
   the mien and gestures that become its kindness,
   in streams, still anonymous, still jumpable,
   flows as it should through any declining country
   in probing spirals.
   Soon of a size to be named and the cause of
   dirty in-fighting among rival agencies,
   down a steep stair, penstock-and-turbine country,
   it plunges ram-stam,
   to foam through a wriggling gorge incised in softer
   strata, hemmed between crags that nauntle heaven,
   robber-baron, tow-rope, portage-way country,
   nightmare of merchants.
   Disemboguing from foothills, now in hushed meanders,
   now in riffling braids, it vaunts across a senile
   plain, well-entered, chateau-and-cider-press country,
   its regal progress
   gallanted for a while by quibbling poplars,
   then by chimneys: led off to cool and launder
   retort, steam-hammer, gasometer country,
   it changes color.
   Polluted, bridged by girders, banked by concrete,
   now it bisects a polyglot metropolis,
   ticker-tape, taxi, brothel, foot-lights country,
   à-la-mode always.
   Broadening or burrowing to the moon’s phases,
   turbid with pulverised wastemantle, on through
   flatter, duller, hotter, cotton-gin country
   it scours, approaching
   the tidal mark where it puts off majesty,
   disintegrates, and through swamps of a delta,
   punting-pole, fowling-piece, oyster-tongs country,
   wearies to its final
   act of surrender, effacement, atonement
   in a huge amorphous aggregate no cuddled
   attractive child ever dreams of, non-country,
   image of death as
   a spherical dew-drop of life. Unlovely
   monsters, our tales believe, can be translated
   too, even as water, the selfless mother
   of all especials.
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