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Dream River

This poem has its origins long ago in a jaunt on the Mississippi river on board the paddle-steamer SS Natchez.

Dream River

As water-light dances through cabin blinds

in scintillant counterpoint to her chattering bow,

a brooding threnody of whistles fills up the big boat's horizon-lines;

the mate checks the bearing of her painted prow.

Well-worn warrior of river life, paddles slapping unruly wind-waves,

the big steamer eyes the rising south-bound stretch. The master craves

indulgence, as they round the final elbow of the Bend;

he'd had to sound her raucous navigation horn.

A poker game pauses, rolls its watchful eyes in scorn:

the pilot stares ahead, sighs:

                                    “Another fence to mend … ”.


Casual at the wheel, pilot Clemens considers the options:

stay on course, risk logs, collisions or his captain's curse,

or steer for safety; follow the Louisiana shoreline and his intuitions.

Win or lose, the great brown river cares not a jot:

                                           sets her own free-wheeling course -

on down to Crescent City, in time for Mardi Gras again,

many miles, and Sam's wide smiles, from Hannibal to Mister Twain.

But now the painting changes; silhouettes grows misty in the nightfall,

the riverboat a floating vision, steam hissing, the boiler's straining seams;

the busy, abundant banks turned listless, grey and still: life but a world of dreams

as the caliope sings a haunted tune, falling down its dog days

                                                                            like a lazy waterfall.


Chris Hubbard



Clemensdog daysdreamsindulgenceMardi GrasnightfallpilotprowthrenodyTwainwaterfall

◄ Moon Pool

every word ►


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