Coming Back to the River
by Wulf Losee

"Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees."
--Stonewall Jackson

I always come back to the River.
She appears in my dreams so frequently
that her image is a now a double exposure,
a superimposed ghost on my waking life.
This river is now as wide as the Mississippi,
in this my 19,116th day of swimming.

I don't remember where she started,
but my first memories of her
were when she was a stream with sandy banks.
She was shallow enough that my dream mother,
not to be confused with my real mother,
let me wade in the sunny water.

In a few years I became experienced enough
to swim in her on my own without fear,
and my dream mother let me go,
and I never saw her as a person again.
But I do see her -- for she has become
this endless and beautiful summer river
who embraces me and envelopes me
in the dusty warm shafts of waterlight.

Sometimes I can swim for miles
and not come up to breathe.
I suppose it could be that my body
is a snorkel that channels the senses
and is a conduit for the air and breath
of the waking world and of the waking self.

But again I encounter a double image
for my waking self hovers above the River,
a giant green and blue dragonfly,
an Anax junius that darts and weaves,
and I am dazzled by the quick rippled light
that is reflected by my wings.

And I think that there might be many other rivers
superimposed upon my river.
I do not fully understand this,
but I may have swum in many other rivers.
Since my dreaming mind can only
understand images, I swim to the shore
and I climb out of the reeds
to warm myself naked in the sun.

Stonewall Jackson in delirium mumbled
his perfect death poem, and I was not surprised
that it was a poem about a river,
about crossing a river and resting,
for I suspect we all swim in the same river.
And so I will always come back to the River
until she opens into a vast and cold sea,
where I can no longer see the land,
but I will swim in her.