—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.