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Original Poem: "River God" with Commentary

Updated on February 25, 2020
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Writing poetry became my major composing activity circa 1962, & Mr. Malcolm Sedam's creative writing class in 1963-64 deepened my interest.

Whitewater River - Richmond, Indiana

Source

Introduction and Text of "River God"

My original poem, "River God," is an Italian influenced American sonnet. Rime is so subtle as to be virtually absent; the same can be observed of rhythm. The rime scheme may roughly be identified as, ABBAAADC in the octave and EEFGHH in the sestet, leaving much room for interpretation! The rhythm varies from trochees to iambs with several jolting turns to anapests.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

River God

Every spring along the Whitewater
I saw that some mysterious hand
Had rearranged the rocks and sand.
The path I followed the summer before
Was slipping off into the water.
I could not figure whose force could drive
That water among the reeds & shift its bed
& every spring draw me to its side.

Whose muscles uprooted those trees?
Whose fingers patterned those stones
Along the edge? I guessed
Only the spring thaw
Conjured up the changes
In those sleeping river images.

Indian Summer 1886

Source

Commentary

Rivers have always fascinated the observant, for they hold the human being's essential nature of meandering to find the best place to land, to empty, to exist. The intricate interweaving of Italian and American sonnet makes this an unusual poem in its form alone, but the content, i.e. subject matter, makes it a less than typical journey of childhood to adulthood, from wondering and wandering to finally assuming the answer to an important question about creation and its Creator.

First Movement: A River Visit in Springtime

Every spring along the Whitewater
I saw that some mysterious hand
Had rearranged the rocks and sand.
The path I followed the summer before
Was slipping off into the water.

The first movement of this poem structurally displays in a cinquain, casually opening with the speaker reporting her experience with a river near which she lived as a child. In springtime as she visited the river, she was struck by the changes that had occurred in the river’s ecological situation. The river’s banks had changed, and the speaker assumes that some "mysterious hand / Had rearranged the rocks and sand." She notes that where she had walked along the bank of the river just last summer was no longer there; it was now "slipping off into the water." For a young explorer, this change must have been somewhat startling, especially if she had not noticed such changes before.

Second Movement: A Puzzling Transformation

I could not figure whose force could drive
That water among the reeds & shift its bed
& every spring draw me to its side.

The second movement consists of a tercet wherein the speaker confesses that she had no idea how such a river has managed to change its many qualities. But notice that she implies that buried beneath the rubble of her life, she intuited that someone or something was doing this changing. After all, an inanimate ecological environment could not merely transform itself; it had to be directed by someone or something, didn’t it? After all, the river environment had accomplished a complex task: it shifted in its bed, not following the exact channel as earlier, it meandered differently among reeds, and then it summoned the budding poet to come see what it had done.

Third Movement: Whom to Credit?

Whose muscles uprooted those trees?
Whose fingers patterned those stones
Along the edge?

The sestet of the Italianesque American sonnet explores the specific questions that the speaker has been offered to explore: Who could have done all this? From uprooting trees to simply changing the configuration of "stones along the edge." Note that the speaker attributes "muscles" and "fingers" to the Perpetrator of these events, yet at this point in her evolution, she has no idea whether this creative entity has such features.

Fourth Movement: Guesswork

I guessed
Only the spring thaw
Conjured up the changes
In those sleeping river images.

The speaker finally offers her thoughts at the time: she just figured, "it is what it is." Or more specifically, that as the winter season worked its magic of relenting to the "spring thaw," it just changed—something like the atheist’s banter of creation just appearing without a cause and without a Creator. During the winter time, the river seems to sleep even as it keeps on moving—its environment of trees, bushes, grasses, rocks, paths, and other features at least seem to sleep. And for the youthful explorer, who probably had not even bothered to explore in winter, they were definitely asleep.

But in springtime, when the explorer goes exploring, the river comes alive again; it is in her imagination, it fills her lust for wandering, and it brings her to a state of awareness that sitting in the house doing schoolwork and the mundane tasks that a growing young girl might encounter would ordinarily seem so dull She blusters with questions: why on earth would her beloved river lose its path she had walked on just the summer before? What can she do but speculate? And wait, and wait, and wait for answers.

Whitewater River - Minnesota

Source

The Divine Answer

Note that the speaker has finally been blessed with the answer to her question: it is the River God, of course, who has caused all those changes. The reader of this poem will know from the beginning what the speaker did not know when she was first forming those questions, when she was first entertaining the strange notion that rivers change, when she was first observing one of the most important details of her life.

На Кушавере

Source

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

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  • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Sue Grimes 

    3 years ago from U.S.A.

    Thanks so much, Natalie! It's so good to have an old friend here. Best of everything for you and your writing! Blessings, Linda

  • Natalie Frank profile image

    Natalie Frank 

    3 years ago from Chicago, IL

    Beautiful poem, very useful and well written analysis. I have always admired your ability to communicate your thoughts via both poetic device and analytic explanation. Can't wait to read the next one and catch up on those I missed now that I've begun writing here!

  • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Sue Grimes 

    4 years ago from U.S.A.

    Thank you, whonu! Always appreciate feedback regarding my creative works. Have a blessed day!

  • whonunuwho profile image

    whonunuwho 

    4 years ago from United States

    Nice work my friend. Beautiful illustrations. whonu

  • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Sue Grimes 

    4 years ago from U.S.A.

    Thank you, Shadrack! I do appreciate your kind words. Have a blessed day!

  • Shadrack2 profile image

    Shadrack2 

    4 years ago

    Quite interesting. Well articulated indeed

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