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River Profile

Our body is a moulded river
—Novalis

Out of a bellicose fore-time, thundering
head-on collisions of cloud and rock in an
up-thrust, crevasse-and-avalanche, troll country,
     deadly to breathers,

it whelms into our picture below the melt-line,
where tarns lie frore under frowning cirques, goat-bell,
wind-breaker, fishing-rod, miner’s-lamp country,
     already at ease with

the mien and gestures that become its kindness,
in streams, still anonymous, still jumpable,
flows as it should through any declining country
     in probing spirals.

Soon of a size to be named and the cause of
dirty in-fighting among rival agencies,
down a steep stair, penstock-and-turbine country,
     it plunges ram-stam,

to foam through a wriggling gorge incised in softer
strata, hemmed between crags that nauntle heaven,
robber-castle, tow-rope portage-way country,
     nightmare of merchants.

Disembogueing from foot-hills, now in hushed meanders,
now in riffling braids, it vaunts across a senile
plain, well-entered, chateau-and-ciderpress country,
     its regal progress

gallanted for a while by quibbling poplars,
then by chimneys: led off to cool and launder
retort, steam-hammer, gasometer country,
     it changes color.

Polluted, bridged by girders, banked with concrete,
now it bisects a polyglot metropolis,
ticker-tape, taxi, brothel, footlights country,
     à-la-mode always.

Broadening or burrowing to the moon’s phases,
turbid with pulverized wastemantle, on through
flatter, duller, hotter, cotton-gin country,
     it scours, approaching

the tidal mark where it puts off majesty,
disintegrates, and through swamps of a delta,
punting-pole, fowling-piece, oyster-tongs country,
     wearies to its final

act of surrender, effacement, atonement
in a huge amorphous aggregate no cuddled
attractive child ever dreams of, non-country,
     image of death as

a spherical dew-drop of life. Unlovely
monsters, our tales believe, can be translated
too, even as water, the selfless mother
     of all especials.

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