Grubstake on the River

I have a small grubstake on the river
where she breaks out of the high mountain
sauntering like an unfettered horse,
wild, unbridled and reckless,
washing over gravel beds and stone outcrops,
telling her own story before she drops
into the cut channels of the towns and cities.
She’s a woman how she flows
falling from ice caves above the tree line,
following her own course.
She doesn’t want the life
of a housebroken servant.
The original people knew her by name,
talking to her, coaxing her
to share her fish and healing water.
The merchants iron bound her
and you can feel the sadness
if you travel without motor
and smell the earth
along her rubble strewn shores.
Up here where she rides free
we don’t see many folks.
By our lonesome we sing twangy duets,
remembering the time of snow
and a dance through cottonwood.
The lyrics are gentle as her soft legs;
they don’t complain.
The fiddle scratches your heart,
the banjo reminding you to laugh.
They are old songs in four-four time.
If you tap your foot and listen close
you’ll hear the stones and something of yourself
rolling beneath her fast flowing water,
tumbling along on the slow slow journey,
river, rock and people
to the near and distant sea.



Grubstake on the River


13 Responses to “Grubstake on the River”

  1. Gorgeous! Reminds me of my idea to do a river poem video. We are headed up the Chetco River for a week, and this poem inspires me to do my best work.
    I admire the graceful change up from river to singing round the campfire–gracefully and imperceptibly done!

  2. David Barnes says:

    Hey Don. Most lovely.

    I was raised in early years along the ragged banks of Grouse Creek which flows through the old gold mining town of Barkerville, B.C. My father & my uncle worked placer gold claims along many creeks in that region, while me & my cousins roamed freely among the boulders & overburden along the creek beds & through what was then a ghost town, except for my family who lived there, with my uncle who was the Gold Commissioner. As a teenager I staked & worked gold claims in that region with my uncle.

    You poem unveils essences of mountain, river & growing things among the “rugged rubble” – as well as long forgotten ghost-voice murmurings, folded-within the music of waters along the riverbank in this our present life & roamings.

    Great poem! db

  3. Eric Dunn says:

    I like the multi sensory impact of this poem.

  4. Don, very lovely, like a morning walk along the St. Joe river with the frost still on the trees and the sun glistening on the trees as morning dew is on the wane. So much of my childhood and teen years in this poem- it touched me.

  5. Maria Frid says:

    Glorious and sad at the same time. She is free and giving then as she gets close to where humans live in the cities she becomes a “housebroken servant”. It breaks my heart.

  6. Jack leishman says:

    This is oh so beautiful, Don. You just took me into the flow; the eternal flow of water and life and earth and land……thank you for that!

  7. John MacKenzie says:

    Hi Donald
    I thought of Sometimes a Great Notion
    Never Give A Inch

  8. Stan Grindstaff says:

    Don… The depth of your listening connects the earth earthy with celestial calm… As you breathe the waters flow…

  9. Pichay says:

    Thank you, Don. Her power commands my respect. “washing over gravel beds and stone outcrops”: there She deposits her gold.

  10. Marco says:

    A huge part of me wishes we could bring her glory-days back … but the still small voice knows that at finer levels she is unspoiled, and her legs as “soft and uncomplaining” as ever. We’ll just have to release to death and re-birth – with all its troublesome glory … Deep breathing, and ultimate abandon seem the only smart way to go as the rapids lead to the waterfall.

  11. thomas mcdermott says:

    Reminds me of the book i’m currently reading: “Astoria” and the overland journey to establish JJ Astor’s new emporium on the mouth of the Columbia. Nice stuff as always, Don.

  12. jude says:

    Gorgeous. I am wowed. You know Her. Yes you do!!
    Thank you so much for calling her to our foggy attention.
    I’m gonna watch out for her today.

  13. David Banner says:

    I can feel this one all the way through….brilliant!

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