River Hymn – a poem by Michael Sandler

River Hymn

Where I grew up, the river was a concrete trough; 
to the citizens, a profane improvement—
perhaps why I’m drawn to wilder rivers:

their glinting in sunlight and choppy pewter
after a storm; ferrying an intelligence  
of clouds, sinuous, homing to the sea.

Artery between these inland thoughts
and ocean’s vastness—each spill and gush
catholic, dismissive of state, of sect.

Unquenched by civil icons, I have faith
in river water—to wade into… and drink.
Within its surface sky, ripples, the deep—

you can fathom why the ancients worshiped water gods: 
an aqueous caprice fluid/clear/opaque,
now mirroring, now blotting out my face,

raging over banks to flood innocent domains, 
spume of an angry immanence…
Hours later, all languor and veiled current.

Proteus, the alias of a flow I step into.
Even its burble ever-shifting, yet familiar.
A hymn if I’m attentive. A water psalm

recited when I plug my ears and listen
to grotto whispers, a summons 
not skyward, but to a tributary within.

Michael Sandler is the author of a poetry collection, The Lamps of History (FutureCycle Press 2021) that Kirkus Reviews described as a “complex, electric work of erudite poems.” His work has appeared in scores of journals, including recently in Arts & Letters, Literary Imagination, and Smartish Pace. Michael lives near Seattle; his website is www.sandlerpoetry.com.

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