This week’s poem is another Bill Knott gem.
What moves me most about it is how it stirs up from mere words a whole fabulistic world from a distance, and, by the end of the poem, brings the world closer to the reader, as close as the glass of water in hand that makes up the final image.
Seeing as the poem involves rivers meeting (and not meeting), this week’s image is of the confluence of the Rhone and Arve River in Geneva, Switzerland.
By the River BAAB – Bill Knott
We know that somewhere far north of here
the two rivers Ba and Ab converge to form
this greater stream that sustains us, uniting
the lifeblood length of our lands: and we believe
that the Ba’s sources is heaven, the Ab’s hell.
Daily expeditions embark upcountry to find
that fork, to learn where the merge first occurs.
Too far: none of our explorer’s return. Or
else when they reach that point they themselves
are torn apart by a sudden urge to choose –
to resolutely take either the Ba/the Ab, to trace
good or evil to its spring. Each flips a coin
perhaps, or favors whichever one the wind’s
blowing from at that moment. Down here
even we who have not the heart to venture
anywhere that would force us to such deep
decisions, even we, when we hold that glass of
water in our hand, drink it slowly, deliberately,
as if we could taste the two strains, could somehow
distinguish their twin flow through our veins.