An unintentional baptism,
canoe livery advised
follow river center
when we come to whitewater
remains of demolished dam.
The precipitous plunge
briefly thins rushing water,
removes its depth,
draws bedrock closer.
Froth of river’s fury
warns of peril
while hiding it from view.

Knees drum mid-river
boulder that anchors me
and my half-submerged kayak.
Creeping along the periphery
may have been safer.
Cursed bloody scrapes
and tomorrow’s bruises
serve an atonement of sorts,
harmonizing with river’s current
more than I ever could
skimming its surface.

When sages speak of living water
they must think of wild rivers
which shout with thunder, dance,
bow and rise again. Just beyond
where I stand buffeted,
the river rests, imitating calm pond
before moving on once again,
never truly still. We come willingly
to this lazy stretch to drink,
to immerse ourselves with hope
it will carry us back to the garden.
But what does grace
of pool’s solitude mean
if we’ve never stood
in the middle of rapids?

Note: This poem was entered in the 2020 Westminster Art Festival and published in the festival poetry booklet.

©2020 Kenneth W. Arthur