STONE-DRUM: A RIVER MEDITATION

 

stonefly nymph

           —for Dave Brubeck

Water: everything, every living thing is

Hard-wired to the sound of water, flowing

Water, from the trickling of melting glaciers

To the thundering of Niagara Falls,

We’re all drawn, all thirst, toward its

Damp promise—be it pool, puddle, or

Brook—we wouldn’t exist without water.

 

It seems obvious we invented music

Listening to rivers and streams,

The pouring rain, dripping eaves—observing

Nature’s changing, hypnotic ways—

Our preoccupations with weather, lapping

Waves, the howling wind, campfire

Embers and licking flames—always

We’re tuned to snapping sounds, screech-

Scratchings out of sight—day or night—

Those ongoing symphonies of survival

We recognize—each time is like the first time.

 

Archetypal water drums a bass line

Gravitational call to ride the A-train, thoomp-

Bloomping like Brubeck inside our veins,

Hauling us back to Duke’s blues

On a black-eyed piano-sea, Koto’s Song

Softly killing that old misconception,

Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons’ claim . . .

Silence Is Golden. Complete silence

Is death—dry, waterless death.

The sound of water sings us

Home, wet, to our first best-place,

The amniotic bath—sloshing bones

Dreaming skin, swallow and swim.

 

Stoneflies crawl for muddy miles deep

Underground following the percussive sound

Of erosion, water over gravel and sand,

Tumbling boulders, tearing at the landscape,

Uprooting trees, floating sticks, leaves,

Fallen debris. Scouring and pounding,

These streambed vibrations

Shake nymphs to rise and dance,

Make seed, then feed whitewater trout

Anxiously awaiting the feast of flies.

 

When the runoff is done and cloudy

Creek currents settle clear as glass—

Riffles rattling to a clattering roar—

The stream-song invitations, those

Skeleton husks littering the shore,

Announce (like It’s a Boy! cigars):

Dinner has taken wing.

 

Trout feed fat in eddies then,

When stoneflies flit above the spray

Of that deafening-breathy SHAAAAAAAAY!—

Fast water racing across rocky ground,

Straight-water pushing toward ocean

And sky, creating a rhythm reminiscent

Of Lionel Hampton’s vibraphone—or

Maybe Mingus plucking out liquidy-

Hollow tones—ebbs and flows: rivers

Riffing solos, splashing crescendos.

 

If water were a stage, some musical metaphor

Praising the stonefly’s Swan Song,

We’d see it feeding a flash of rainbow tail,

Clenched tight in a Cutthroat’s jaws . . .

Now stiffening in the bottom of a creel.

That fisherman might wash blood

From his hands, finger the soft bones,

Wings buzzing his ears, as he watches

A dipper hopping stone to stone—

Inhaling it all—the river’s melody,

Tympanic meditations on a dream.

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