Odra: The River Parable

Marilyn Silverstone, lotus head bent over by snow in Srinagar, Kashmir, 1968. Source: magnumphotos.com

Before a river stands a peasant.

Earlier he had the simple objective of traveling to another village. He was a man of plain speech, for him to be “overwhelmed by a river” simply meant drowning, but there he is, standing, stunned, gaping at a river, overwhelmed by some ineffable attribute.

He passed other rivers before, never had he stopped and felt so enthralled by one. “Only booze can make it any better,” he thought, so he camped near the river bank.

That night he drank to excess: he accumulates hubris and greed in his inebriation, and merely observing the river was not enough for him now. So he waded through the river. Then he realizes what he has done when the water slushes his jaw; he has grimed the river, he couldn’t bring but filth to it, he panicked. At first, he thought drowning would be the only resort from the overbearing remorse that awaits him. But that would only defile it more, leaving a decaying bloated corpse for the river to deal with. He floundered helplessly out of the water, and ran as far as he can before trembling and perching in his place.

He slept. And the next morning he couldn’t resist going back to the river, this time making a pact with the gods: “O gods I shall only observe.” But this can only last for a week before he misjudges his capacity to control the urge to drink, and he falls for it again, and he staggers in panic out of the river again. Only this time he tries to cripple himself by jumping off a cliff nearby, and that only added blood to the filth he brought to the river after.

The peasant wondered why the river seemed so inviting, he’s so certain it was only his imagination when he’s sober, looking at all the filth he brought and is still bringing. “Only if the river stopped me,” he consoles himself.

Now the peasant keeps wading through the river begging it to rebuff him.

Rake the Sentiment: Three Poems by Joe Linker

Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Paris, 1996. Source: magnumphotos.com

On the Bus

Caught up short on the express bus and those drivers don’t stop for shit. I avoid the express because of my affliction but it was filthy out, brown cold rain, and here come the bus, and jostling, and I don’t notice, and it’s an express, and it won’t stop.

I’m good at first, plop down in a seat, bag under my feet, floor wet but seat warm.

Claude said it come from eating out of trashcans and such. They fixed us so we could not ever have kids and road us on a rail out of Utah.

I like to look into the houses, warm glows of lights, the bus passes.

I consider my options.

Bad to give us a bad name. And I do not call myself that. I’m a traveler. A time traveler. I travel all the time. Round and round the city I go.

But I can’t hold it any longer, and this an express bus, so here we go.

Need a boat to paddle out of here. Gives a whole new meaning to disembark.

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