Cottonwoods on River Road

A poet builds a house with words.  Underneath the words, the wind blows.  Time moves on, change happens.  It's out of control, seemingly.

Or is it?  The house is built on sand, or stone.  Maybe limestone, which is a record of shifting time.

Back in the 1920s, my Grandpa Ravlin built a sturdy brick house at 1615 River Road, in Minneapolis - around the corner from where I am now living, after about 45 years in Rhode Island.

In 1615, John Donne became an Anglican minister and Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral (pretty much against his will - he was commanded thus by King James I).

A poem has its own architecture, if you live in it for a while you begin to sense the contours with your fingertips.  The first Book of Ravenna Diagram concluded, fittingly, just as I was leaving Rhode Island.  Tonight - maybe - I'm starting up again.  The impulse is relentless, like the Big Muddy ink-wash across the street.  It feels good to be at it again, anyway.

Moving is painful, as thousands of Syrian refugees can tell you (better than I can).

The state of Rhode Island was established (under the leadership of Roger Williams) as a "refuge for troubled consciences".

Let them in, America (Statue of Liberty speaking).


By the River Road, under the tall
bare cottonwoods, on the last
warm day, before the blast
of ice descends from the North Pole

I think of this Mississippi
constancy (unbending
loops & bends, winding
serpent-wise out of prehistory)

& of my frailty, my brevity
having forsook soft sand-
castle petite Rhode Island
for some territorial interiority –

inward cthonic Mendelssohn
where Mirror Lakes echo
down Arthur Street (so
far-off in the way-back zone).

The cottonwoods lean toward the sun.
Gravity pulls at
the Franklin Bridge (that
spider-thread my brother swan-

dived off, & lived).  Flatland anguish
drags at Minneapolis –
down gridiron avenues
of gray snow, hunkered refugees...

The low sun, like a paradigm
hovers just over the mammoth
snake.  The face in the cloth
shudders – furls birchbark (trireme).


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