BY THE ANDROSCOGGIN

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The Androscoggin flows, cliff-sheltered,
hidden by a thickness of great pointed firs,
so we cannot see it from our windows
though we know it’s there. Sometimes we hear

after a freakish torrent of hard rain
its rushing over rocks—the ones we hop
when crossing—and we’re sidelined for awhile.

The local ducks, deer, foxes, skunks
don’t seem to mind; they let the river
have it’s way—grow wider, deeper,

curving slippery as silk over the falls,
roaring down to swirls of sudsy turbulence
then calming to black pools of mystery.

Only the hand that winds the clock of thought,
the sleepless eyes that worry out the window,
know an urge to push the river toward the sea,

while among the firs, small bright eyes
caught on the dark like stars fallen to earth,
watch, and don’t agree or disagree.
.
.
BY THE ANDROSCOGGIN

42 responses »

  1. I’ve always loved this one, Cynthia; it is one of your very best. It describes a scene with unstrained charm and matter-of-factness but leaves us gazing out of the window wondering about Life and Why and Wherefore!

    • Wondering the big questions through the smaller matters of fact that sometimes seem so numinous….is what you and I probably favor the most in poems, John. Thank you so much.

  2. Androscoggin is obviously an oblique reference to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Glad I caught that. As you know, there are all sorts of readers and I’m glad that I am brilliant at ferreting out the intended meaning behind poems, billboard advertisements, and most billings (except for the electric bill, which is steeped in demonology and quite difficult to understand–even for a remarkably intense mind such as my own).

    The clock of thought–a Jobinian metaphor, spectacularly deployed.

    • My great, great, great grandmother who was a Micmac, of the Eastern Abenaki, of the Algonquin tribe, would be most impressed with the way your remarkably intense mind has broken the code “Androscoggin.” Now if you could just find the deep meaning behind the electric bill–what is electricity anyway?—it would be a gift to us all.

      But even more than your astute ferreting, I love your creative language. “Jobinian” is one of your coinages my clock of thought particularly admires and appreciates.

      • Of course, Maxwell sought to unify electric and magnetic fields, but I wasn’t impressed. Neither were his backers. Maxwell, a Micmac, then put his considerable intellect toward hot beverages (coffee, parenthetically, is not a sham) and built the Maxwell House brand up from scratch.

        To be sure, many of your readers will be interested in this biographical information, deeming it to be ‘good to the last drop.’

        • Wow, I didn’t realize Maxwell was a Micmac….my Grandpa Joe wasn’t a Micmac, or a coffee either.. He came from Ireland to North America, in his childhood, and drank mostly beer. But I do remember his wondering aloud: “If it’s good to the last drop….what about the last drop?”

          I am a fan of Eight O’Clock, myself, which goes back even earlier than Maxwell House, to the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (the A&P)….100% Colombian beans, ground fresh with a bit of Sri Lankan cinnamon stick.

          Which brings us back to cinnamon, an old familiar topic of our conversations, dear Prospero. We do love to tend to wander, don’t we..and something has to bring us back, though I enjoy the mosey so much I don’t even remember where “back” was.

          • I have a mind like a steel trap (today’s theme) and know exactly where we are in this discussion, as the physics of coffee was the subject of my brilliantly effervescent dissertation about why both Maxwell and Einstein were wrong about electric coffee machines, which earned me a PhD at the University of Botswana some years ago, during the Second Boer War, if memory serves. Regrettably, we have drifted ever so slightly from the subject of your poem.

            • “All the perfumes of arabica”…no, wait I have the wrong play. It’s more a case of “A river runs through it..”…and it always does, you know, whether we recognize it or not.

  3. I haven’t read or heard the name of that river in many years, Androscoggin – instant memories came rushing back Cynthia. Wonderful way to describe this quiet but potent river and falls, beautiful words of a place that is so quietly special to many Mainers.

    • The Androscoggin runs into the Kennebec at Merrymeeting Bay….I’m not sure if that was anywhere near where you lived when you were in Maine, Mary. But now that you’re in Texas I’m happy to hear that this poem brought back fond memories. Thank you, as always, my friend.

  4. I love this poem of your beautiful river Cynthia, I swear I could hear the sounds and smell the air when you had finished reading 🙂 I especially love the juxtaposition of human thought and animal acceptance found in the final verses.

    • It’s a beautiful river, Pauline. The upper reaches are great for fishing and canoeing. As kids, we even learned to swim in one of its tributaries that runs through Rumford. For a while, the main branch became polluted by several paper mills further along the river. I used to enjoy seeing the men hopping on the huge rolling logs that were floating on the canal toward the mill. It’s been cleaned up quite a bit in recent years….could it be because we are getting away from the use of trees to make our books? Thank you so much for your comment. I’m glad you appreciated those final verses, though I’m not surprised. 🙂

  5. A lovely rich poem which keeps drawing us back. The alliteration is marvelous specially in the fourth stanza. I love “curving slippery as silk”, “swirls of sudsy” and “black pools of mystery”. I often wonder at you ability to coin such evocative phraseology which is so rich in sound and meaning.
    I’m naughty as I kept on wanting to change “its rushing over rocks” to “it rushing over rocks.” But, as I am no poet of your intellect and caliber I oughtn’t to type this thought and will no doubt regret mentioning it after I push “post comment”.

    • Ha..ha..Jane! I love that you typed your thought despite misgivings. I think I could go into a very “intellectual” explanation for why I prefer “its” to “it” but why don’t I just say that it sounds better to me my way…just a choice of a noun (gerund) over a verb, probably giving the river more authority over what is happening with it. Thank you very much for your kind remarks!

  6. I love this. I can see and smell the river (and hear it) as it runs on its way. I also like the description of the inhabitants, especially the ones from the stars…and aren’t we all stardust?

    • I’m so glad you can see, smell and hear the river. You got me thinking…the big bang theory indeed says we are all stardust. Ash Wednesday rubrics tell us we are all dust,–plain old dust, I guess— and will return to dust. One way or the other, we’re dust, except that one version is more sparkly.

  7. I enjoyed that poem very much and was caught in the first stanza because it made me realize I”feel” my surroundings, which is something I never considered before. I live near a creek and walk my dogs along the banks and feel very connected to the creek. I never thought of myself as a “feely” sort of person but I think as far as Creeks go, I am. Thank you for giving me something to think about. I hope I didn’t miss the point. 😀

    • So you’re a “feely” person, eh? I think I am too. I often heard the word ‘creek’ but didn’t stop to think about what it is, compared to a brook, or pond, or river, so I looked it up. It’s smaller than a river, apparently, but like a river–a tributary to a river. People in the southern US call it a ‘crick.’

      It’s so nice that you have that kind of walk for your dogs. I once had a dog–a border collie–who couldn’t resist any body of water; he would have been off and swimming, if I walked him along the banks of a creek!

      If there is any point to all of this, it might be relative to that bad habit some of us have, of wanting to “push the river” rather than letting it meander and flow…but as always there are many possible associations, and “points” that pop up. Thanks for your comment, Sharon. 🙂

    • It’s one of the marvelous facts of nature. And living in the mountains, the “origins” of rivers have always fascinated me too. Once in childhood a friend and I decided we would try to find the beginning of a shallow stream where we used to play. We climbed and climbed the ledges but tired out long before we found the source. Of course.

  8. I dream of being a JEOPARDY! contestant and there’s a category called THE STATE OF RIVERS, because U.S. geography has been a favorite subject since I was young, and one area where my aging memory hasn’t faded is names of lesser-known rivers, natural wonders, etc . I see myself running the category because few contestants seem knowledgeable in that area; moreover, I would make it a ‘true daily double’ at the end, the answer would be ANDROSCOGGIN (which I’ve actually crossed), and my question would be “Where is Maine?” — Voila! I’m a JEOPARDY! champion!
    Then I wake up and Voila! — I’m just a poor admirer of a lovely poem BY THE ANDDROSCOGGIN of happy memory. 🙂

    • This comment made my day!… (so far) which otherwise didn’t begin well. I can picture the whole dream, and you’ve reminded me that I haven’t watched JEOPARDY in a while, and how much I always enjoyed it. I think it must be nice to have the kind of mind that can take in and remember those names, because you can see them, and maybe go there, in your mind’s eye. My own peculiar elephantine memory is for old songs, and knowing all the lyrics….and I mean OLD songs. Too bad they don’t have that old TV show called NAME THAT TUNE…or was it STOP THE MUSIC! ? I’m glad to hear of someone outside of us Maine-iacs who has heard of the Androscoggin, and even been there, done that. Thank you very much, mistermuse, and I think I will turn on JEOPARDY this evening instead of the news.

      • Oddly enough, I have a better memory for place names than for people names — much to the consternation of my wife, whose many in-laws I can’t keep track of except for the few I see more than once in a BLUE MOON (which just happens to be the title of one of those OLD songs I’m sure you remember, as I do….which is why I often include them in my posts).

        • “….you knew just what I was there for,
          You heard me saying a prayer for….”

          …for someone to say your name because for the life of me I can’t remember it. I have a terrible problem with remembering names.

  9. You have an eye – and a way of putting what it sees into words. But then, you have a MIND, and a way of doing the same with what it thinks.
    Tell me, Cynthia – why do I remember this ?
    XO

    • You probably remember this, M-R, because I posted it two years ago…I sometimes do this, being of the belief that poems do not have a “sell by” date, and because the turnover in readers who follow this blog is ongoing. I am thrilled that even a soupçon or wisp of it is even vaguely remembered.

      I just checked your current (new) web page for AND THEN LIKE MY DREAMS and I really like its uncluttered directness and elegance. My own copy is the paperback version since I still fancy real books over ebooks.. will there sometime be an audible version ?

      Of course, your Tunisian site is fun, too. So nice to hear from you, my dear.
      XO

      • I have yet to find the real will to return to blogging. I think that I am so distracted by my never-ending search for The Right Place To Live (not Town – this is the one) that I simply can’t settle. But on the other hand, it might be the Cymbalta …

        • Cynbalta will do all kinds of things to the will….but I don’t think there’s any rule that says blogging is a necessity, or even desirable to all folks. I hope you find The Right Place. I never have, and likely never will. 🙂

  10. I had to check for Androscoggin before I could go further into the poem. Then, ah! I flew with your words and drowned. It summons so many thoughts and moods to my mind, vistas unseen and yet viewed so vividly, the human consciousness with the attendant weight of living, the sprightliness of the wildlife, starry-eyed and sanguine, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. It is a poem as complex and multi-layered as lucid it is in its flow, and I am sure there are many more meanings waiting to be explored. It brings to the fore the thought buried deep in the labyrinths of reason but gnawing nonetheless all the time, that even though the heart wants to be free and lithe like the deer and be as unconcerned, it loses itself in the depths of the still, black pools. Yes, it is a classic.

    • It is totally amazing to me, how you have found so much in this poem, which started out for me as a simple description of the river that runs near where I live. The name of the river, Androscoggin, really means little more than “river”, but has sidetracked a few readers. It’s a name in the language of one of the aboriginal peoples of the Algonquin Tribe who inhabited this area long before the Europeans arrived (and called these people “indians”). The poem isn’t about them or the name, but I can see from the richness of associations you have made that maybe the spirits of those ancient tribes still dwell not only in the river, but also somewhere in the mind of one who muses and makes a poem about it.
      I have thoroughly enjoyed your visit to several poems today, and the unique insights you bring as a fellow language lover and explorer.

  11. The clock of thought and para 5 made me stop. There is a “relentlessness” about this para. It has to keep trying to get to the sea. Year after year. Day after day.Nothing can come in the way.

    • You have nicely put your finger on what I was getting at, Ankur. The river, like the giving yet relentless power of water, flows its way even as we may wish and work to harness it, push it, control it,. Thank you for coming to browse and read today. I always appreciate and value your responses to the poems.

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