The Rising

dVerse host Victoria Slotto has offered some excellent words concerning the use of images in poems, and the way these images can offer the reader a message or new perspective. In the following poem I . . . well, the following poem is an attempt at something or the other. (This is based on a passage in an essay by Wendell Berry called “The Rise.”) It would be nice if you could join in with a poem of your own!

The Rising
The black water rising, bold with recent
rains, extended beyond its normal reach,
lifting every loose thing: leaves and fallen
limbs, a poorly-built dock, beer cans
from weekenders, turned soil from newly
plowed fields. Swollen up to the bottom
branches of the overhanging trees,
it moved the chirping birds further toward
the heavy sky where they sing, anyway.
Toward night the fisherman put in, needing
to gather up his final lines
of the day, careful yet unafraid
of his old flowing friend. He leaned
and grabbed a line, droplets of water
falling like life’s-blood into the current. A heavy 
line this one. The braced foot slipped. Carried away
from the bank, away from the noise of water
breaking, into the unhindered channel,
he cried out. For hours he passed
the unconcerned herons, and families
in their riverfront houses heard him howl
as he went by unseen, not knowing
what to make of it.

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35 thoughts on “The Rising

  1. That last image of the fisherman is a powerful and chilling image, it made me think of the black rising water as death carrying it far away ~

    Superb story telling specially the opening stanza ~

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  2. Powerful images… I love the build up, a river swollen and no matter how careful one little slip changes everything… the ending is so quietly terrifying… this one will stay with me. Wonderful poetry Nico.

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  3. I liked this, Nico. I especially pondered the last stanza, the not knowing what to make of it. Seems the reader also is left to decide. Evocative GOOD writing.

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  4. This is wonderfully told – from your descriptions of the rising of the water – the swelling with past rains – to his mood, the fisherman caught I guess in the current, and the heedlessness of all parts of the scene. It is really well done, so understated, but with a strong sense of message too. k.

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  5. Thanks Sherry–Mr. Berry's version of this story has always stuck with me, partly because it resembles a local story told in my childhood that I remember. (One of those stories told by parents to keep the kids from going alone to the river!)

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  6. ..How sad it must be to witness a vanishing life in everything created around… every single day these days seemed like always a tough starting phase…strong visuals that leaves countless realizations…smiles…

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  7. Thanks Laurie–I started out with just the first three stanzas and thought it made a pretty good poem. Then I added the fisherman part. So I guess it's not out of the question to follow him downstream to see how it turns out. Likely not very good.

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  8. very strong. Love the natural rise and fall throughout the poem, but especially the way this rhythm moves in and out between each stanza. Great use of carrying lines/thoughts from last line in a stanza to the first of the next as well. Excellent piece. Thanks

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  9. Someone being swept along in the fast flowing tsunami wake which gathers everything in its path to the unconcern of herons and indifference of riverside families out to sea with nothing to grasp on to. In the end we will all be alone in that river.
    Metaphor for an atheist.

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  10. Thanks R., that's a possible interpretation, though in writing it I did not have the old man's religion (or lack thereof) in mind. It raises some interesting questions–if the old man believed someone would be there to help him, does that change what he experiences?

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