Burning River

Original Text: 
Ortiz, Simon J. Woven Stone. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1992: 198-99.
1I will tell my son over and over again,
3Mountains must stand
4until winds and rains come,
5and they -- and only they --
6will cause them to sink
7back into the center
8of that universal river
9which is their's
10and their children's,
11Magpie, Bear, and Coyote too.
12I will tell him over and over
13and over again.
15We wait at the crossing.
16The train shudders
17with some evil disease.
18The disease kills
19even as it dies.
20And the disease will be
21at its furious work
22until its frantic energy
23will become its burning death.
24And then the weakened spirit
25will turn to the center
26and become the cooled wind
27and become the cooled rain
28and wash the last vestige
29of waste from our bones,
30from our charred ligaments
31and wash them back
32to the River,
33the River,
34the River,
35four times the River.

Notes

2] The Cuyahoga River in northeast Ohio caught fire in a spectacular way on June 22, 1969, just southeast of downtown Cleveland. This well-publicized disaster led to the Clean Water Act in 1972. Randy Newman's "There's a Red Moon Rising" -- celebrated in the film Major League (1989) about the Cleaveland Indians baseball team -- contains the memorable chorus, "Burn on, big river, burn on." Back to Line
14] Kent State University, Kent, Ohio. Back to Line
Publication Notes: 
Ortiz, Simon J. A Good Journey. Tucson: Sun Tracks and The University of Arizona Press, 1977: 63-4.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2004