The River

Written for performance – best read aloud.

The ruins of a city are discernable through the cracks
Creeping through the corners of our homemade civilisation
A desolation crouching behind the signs and lights
Seeping through the pictures and stories and tales we tell
Constantly constructing a world we can try and believe in
But it hovers always on the brink

And I stand here, seeing the faces turn away
Not daring to meet my eye for fear I might see the truth
The terrible secret
Their private catastrophe, their solitary whirlwind of sorrow,
Confusion, desperation.

We ignore it, steadily, pushing through our lives
Facing the ridges, each dune and valley
With a new realisation of our lack
Other people’s illusions promising false happiness
If I can only reach tomorrow
If I can only take that step

The desert is here in the middle of my city
Our efforts only ever conceal and mask
The scrambling shoving pushing
For status, for approval and for love
For contentment and assurance
That will not come where we are looking.

I come, weathered again by despair
I crawl, vitality drained, I come again
My eyelids sticking
My mouth dry
My skin shrivelled and wrinkled
My mind constructing wild illusions
Throbbing too close in my skull

My purpose only to turn from this
To find you
To come again
To abandon my stubborn and solitary efforts
I come again
Desperate again

And as always
You are waiting
Arms outstretched
You run towards me

One drop

One taste puts the rest of existence far behind
One drop of the water you give changes everything
But it never runs out – you say it overflows
You lead my faltering steps to the edge of a river
Flowing strong and clear and deep
I stoop to the edge, the water cold with the bite of life

You beckon me further and I take leave of the bank
My heart rises, my feet submerged
Your smile covering your face
The water sings of freedom
The hope it carries springs through me as I take another step

My ankles now – and now joy shoots through
Laughter from lips that were dry
You take my hand and lead me forward
My whole self filling
Changing, drinking, soaking

You take me deeper
The current swirls around me, whispering dreams and words of love
My eyes shine brighter
My pain, my sorrow, my anguish swept away
As the water touches my every pore

Tears come, rushing from within, joining the water around me
Deeper again, my feet hardly touching
This is the river
This is the answer for my land, for my city
For those eyes that won’t meet mine
For everyone

The rushing, the roar of water
Pouring through the cracks and the dirt
Sweeping away the past and the sin and the shame
Filling the wounds of my world with pools and streams
Flowing clear and strong and deep

The salve, the only answer
The sweetness, the freshness
The light and the glory
The river

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