Calling The River by Dee Sweet

What the river says, that is what I say. -- William Stafford

Churning currents and the swift streams 
topple over the logic of volume and gravity--
a stream moves down a slight downhill 
then rushes from tributary to tributary
then on to an inland sea or finally, ocean

A conversation in rills and basins, a river sings
with a slow and patient voice of glaciers
civilizations have gathered on the riverbanks
to bathe, to wave farewell, to lift buckets
from streams, to transport heavy logs

We lift our cupped hands of icy winter flow
and listen closely for a harmony to our days
waiting for a melody we recognize by dialect 
an ancient verse and voice of The People
Say, "river" and we feel it in our veins

Then in whispers or the sound of tiny bells 
from a woodland brook, a brave meander
through white pines and maidenhair ferns,
a rowing song to give a cadence and
meter to a birchbark vessel; say "river"

And then hear a single voice, fearless, strong
the relentless voice of the Wolf calling us home. 

Dee Sweet (Anishinaabe, White Earth) is First Nations Organizer for Wisconsin Conservation Voices.  She is also Wisconsin’s second Poet Laureate, appointed by Governor Jim Doyle in 2004-08.

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