Dark River

Rapid river flowing through rough stony terrain in lush forest

Balsam firs tower above. Shaded below, the stream
pours over boulders, rocks, downed logs and pebbles.
My poor toes—wading barefoot, gingerly,
cringing, ouch! oooh! ow!
I wish for the callused feet of childhood.

Seeking respite, I perform a balancing feat,
step onto a large, flat-ish rock—aaah—relief—
my soul is eased upon its smoothness,
I scrape my soles along its rounded edges,
to dislodge grit and sand.
Squatting on the moss-covered rock,
my curious finger caresses, releases
organic aromas. My nose presses into the moss.
My spirit knows that by right I should not be here,
yet here I am, and here I write.

Above the grasp of gnarled roots holding the weary world
in place, beneath the weight of tree-exhalations,
shady and humid, I focus my senses and wait.

Green-furred table-stone releases coolness
stored beneath the moon last night beside the stream.
Now sunlight filters down through balsam needles,
creates frayed images on my notebook.
I can almost taste the greenness.
With my ears I see the ethereal, feathered song
of a wood thrush as it cuts through
the sound of rushing water.
A sea of aerial plankton—mayflies or midges
or stoneflies—golden bits drift in a dark river
of balsam-scented air that flows above the stream,

This is our Mother,
this is the hour of her need.
Within her realm, the very stones can fly.
I pledge a whispered word and bow
beneath the blessing arms of balsam boughs.

Poem by Janet Ruth


Janet Ruth is a New Mexico ornithologist. Her writing focuses on connections to the natural world. She has recent poems in Tiny Seed Literary Journal, The Ocotillo Review, Sin Fronteras, Spiral Orb, Unlost: Journal of Found Poetry & Art, Ekphrastic Review, and anthologies including Moving Images: Poetry Inspired by Film (Before Your Quiet Eyes Publications, 2021), New Mexico Remembers 9/11 (Artemesia Publishing, 2020), and 22 Poems & a Prayer for El Paso (Dos Gatos Press, 2020). Her first book, Feathered Dreams: celebrating birds in poems, stories & images (Mercury HeartLink, 2018) was a Finalist for the 2018 NM/AZ Book Awards. https://redstartsandravens.com/janets-poetry/