River Profile by

Out of a bellicose fore-time, thundering
    head-on collisions of cloud and rock in an
    up-thrust, crevasse-and-avalanche, troll country,
    deadly to breathers,

    it whelms into our picture below the melt-line,
    where tarns lie frore under frowning cirques, goat-bell,
    wind-breaker, fishing-rod, miner’s-lamp country,
    already at ease with

    the mien and gestures that become its kindness,
    in streams, still anonymous, still jumpable,
    flows as it should through any declining country
    in probing spirals.

    Soon of a size to be named and the cause of
    dirty in-fighting among rival agencies,
    down a steep stair, penstock-and-turbine country,
    it plunges ram-stam,

    to foam through a wriggling gorge incised in softer
    strata, hemmed between crags that nauntle heaven,
    robber-baron, tow-rope, portage-way country,
    nightmare of merchants.

    Disemboguing from foothills, now in hushed meanders,
    now in riffling braids, it vaunts across a senile
    plain, well-entered, chateau-and-cider-press country,
    its regal progress

    gallanted for a while by quibbling poplars,
    then by chimneys: led off to cool and launder
    retort, steam-hammer, gasometer country,
    it changes color.

    Polluted, bridged by girders, banked by concrete,
    now it bisects a polyglot metropolis,
    ticker-tape, taxi, brothel, foot-lights country,
    à-la-mode always.

    Broadening or burrowing to the moon’s phases,
    turbid with pulverised wastemantle, on through
    flatter, duller, hotter, cotton-gin country
    it scours, approaching

    the tidal mark where it puts off majesty,
    disintegrates, and through swamps of a delta,
    punting-pole, fowling-piece, oyster-tongs country,
    wearies to its final

    act of surrender, effacement, atonement
    in a huge amorphous aggregate no cuddled
    attractive child ever dreams of, non-country,
    image of death as

    a spherical dew-drop of life. Unlovely
    monsters, our tales believe, can be translated
    too, even as water, the selfless mother
    of all especials.

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