A woman leans
over the mountain bridge
watching her own body curve
around the fir trees.
Full & clear. Stone-hipped & capillaried
in moss. She is the river
who has left the river
to contemplate why - her water will weaken
and her journey change
over many days
and many crossings taken
by villagers & livestock, glacial mist & birds.
Something monks have foreseen
praying in their temple. Housewives have felt
in the warmer-than-usual wind
drying turnip leaves on the floor. What their carved gods
know hanging on the kitchen wall.
Prayer flags bloom on the railing
asking to be healed, helped or forgiven;
and she wonders which sins
are left unspoken. What penitents may come
asking to be cleansed
as her body thins
to a trickling shadow. A scarf of purity
in the mud.
The word, Mochu, is the Bhutanese for female river. In the culture and religion of people from
small nation on the eastern slopes of
The Himalayas, all aspects of nature are spirits from the
flowers to the wind. This also includes rivers; and they are also given genders
depending on the shape, texture and movement of the terrain. The softer more
curvaceous course is considered feminine/female
and the more rugged, muscular one is deemed masculine/male. And that river is
an entity ranging in perspective from a sacred spirit to a minor goddess/god..
The rivers are known to be clear, cold and pure, a major source of inspiration,
drinking nourishment and irrigation for their fields and gardens. Yet, even in
this remote and isolated part of the world, climate change is occurring along
with the introduction of modern technology and the influx of tourists. The old
ways are changing; and so is the pristine face of the landscape. This poem is
the river contemplating the future and its ecological effects. Like all of us,
who metaphorically leave our bodies during meditation or dreaming, so does the
mind/soul of the river.