Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Cumberland Falls

Another early poem. Maybe the best I ever wrote. It looks back on my first marriage- but mainly its about something else. 

                                    CUMBERLAND FALLS


                                    I spent my honeymoon in the woods

                                    Where the high Falls of the Cumberland river

                                    Made Wordsworthian settlers think

                                    Of something smaller they'd left behind

                                    In Ireland or the Hebrides.

                                    The water's pounding holds a ghostly

                                    Fiddle music.  It sings about

                                    The Clearances, the Forty-five...


                                    And swallows the crack of the long rifles,

                                    The hatchet's swipe as the exiles drove

                                    A flint-age, oral culture

                                    Backwards, with the timber-line.


                                    Rivers ingest our human sorrows,

                                    Rendering down our misery

                                    To the inhuman pathos of Nature.

                                    Shut in a cabin among the pines,

                                    We worked at love, and memory shows

                                    Her small, peaked face confronting mine,

                                    Tightened in angry determination

                                    To make a go of what she loathed,

                                    Frigging me in the shower.  Its jets

                                    Needled our slack, reluctant flesh

                                    And I laughed- not, as she thought, at her

                                    But with her- at a brave try,

                                    Hurting inside to think my love

                                    Might never meet an unforced response.

                                    Water rilled down her breasts and made

                                    Her long hair cling like river weed.


                                    And that first night I thought there were three

                                    Souls in that cabin; she and I and ...

                                    Was it the Falls with its Celtic voices

                                    That summoned up that unseen stranger,

                                    Old as stone, and the yellow lichen,

                                    Dark and ravishing as the woods,

                                    Holding me in her saning aura

                                    While in a separate world of pain

                                    My wife stirred as the same defender

                                    Entered her dream?   I kept waking;
                                    Still we were three.  The night resounded,

                                    Filled with the voices of the Falls.

                                    It was as if the Woman spoke,

                                    Wordlessly, maternally,

                                    "Lay aside your fear, your rage;.

                                    You are timed but I am always;

                                    Rest in me.  My tourbillons

                                    Unmake your troubles, and your true love

                                    Waits with me.  I smoothed those fiddles

                                    Into history's wall of music,

                                    Reconciling killer and killed

                                    In one amazing, timeless cry."

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