What the Water Knows

Sam Hamill

What the mouth sings, the soul must learn to forgive.
A rat’s as moral as a monk in the eyes of the real world.
Still, the heart is a river
pouring from itself, a river that cannot be crossed.

It opens on a bay
and turns back upon itself as the tide comes in,
it carries the cry of the loon and the salts
of the unutterably human.

A distant eagle enters the mouth of a river
salmon no longer run and his wide wings glide
upstream until he disappears
into the nothing from which he came.

Only the thought remains. Lacking the eagle’s cunning
or the wisdom of the sparrow, where shall I turn,
drowning in sorrow? Who will know what the trees know,
the spidery patience of young maple or what the
    willows confess?

Let me be water. The heart pours out in waves.
Listen to what the water says.
Wind, be a friend.
There’s nothing I couldn’t forgive.

From Almost Paradise by Sam Hamill, 2005. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston.

Image 1: Norwegian Fjord I, Fredericka Foster, 2004, oil on linen, 42 x 64 inches. Courtesy of Fischbach Gallery, New York City

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