The Middle Fork Suite



water glazes rock.

steady waves chortle the air.

the inevitable fall leans to the sea

and leaves traces of time in elbows of earth.


rocks that once

roots held close

as anchor, now


in tree's repose,

still in their grasp.

one day

rotten roots will let go.


white belly in the sun,

swallow scoots a just foot

over the river -- then

overhead the moment,

the split, the wings

folded to coast:



on the fork we lose

glimpse of ourselves —

no mirrors, no windows ¬

you just glimpse high canyon

walls, crags, rock falls,

and water

that  defines

and runs them.


log spill

on rock slide

above the river,

its roots above

crown lost below.

like a broken bone

cracked to marrow,


as water flows,

time courses

back to soil.


the delta pile of rock,

stream at bank,

rock jam at creek junction

on the way to sea.


don't touch the river,

leave nothing behind,

even the cork blended

with sand and foot prints.


see the river,

smell river air,

feel water course,

hear roar, but

don’t taste the river.


see the river

(its ground, its air)

but not yourself.

see the river's reflection

but not your own.

reflect the river,

don't expect the river

to reflect you.


the river makes comical

our modern lives --

the wants & haunts,

the haves & have-nots.


who are we on the river,

that come to the river,

struggling to struggle --

despairing to be desperate:

our own worst enemies.

we who suffer

and are the genesis

of our suffering,

we come to the river,

we cannot leave those selves behind,

we’re comical. it's sad.


moonless night sky with cliffs as blinders,

the multitude, the myriad,

the milky way,

the falling stars,

the satellites, the white

noise of water and stars.


long burnt-out log

and history of root ball --

pile of rocks

once held dear,

then raised and shuffled

and left as testament

to a century of high life.


we join that flow of gravity

we catch that short glimpse of geological time

and off we scurry to our struggle,

to our wants & haunts --

to a warm shower.


i don't want to say bandshell --

it's in the wilderness on the middle fork,

but to these urban eyes

the cave is shaped just like a bandshell.

the music is visual:

water falls,


over the very apex,

over in smallest streams,

and quickly atomizes,

dances in the wind,

sways from side to side,

a ribbon waving,


at the mercy of its sister wind

and brother gravity,

its wet grace on the surviving green

under the bandshell

trying to reach the sun.


from right below,

the drops separate and define

the fall of gravity

each living its own time apart

to come together, or not,

trapped by green, aerated by brown

or making the fork

to make the salmon,

the snake, the columbia, the pacific,

becoming ocean

as ocean becomes





Copyright James Phoenix 2017

updated 5/7/2017