Live Like A Mighty River

I wrote this poem after reading an excellent letter from Ted Hughes to his son, the year after Slyvia Plath’s death. The letter sets out to comfort Nicholas who is trying to cope with his mother’s suicide. The resulting letter is a beautifully expressed celebration of living “like a mighty river”, embracing all emotions and letting them become a part of you, good or bad.

So I tried to write a poem on this topic and it bent and curved until it became a poem about the Mississippi river. My dad once explained to me that – even if you straightened out all of the kinks of the Mississippi – it would gradually start to warp and bend again until it had returned to its old shape. I like that idea, and the idea that humans tend to work that way too. No matter how much we try and straighten ourselves out and equip ourselves for the real world, occasionally our kinks burst back out of the seams.

Emily x

P.S. Since I’ve never actually seen the Mississippi river, see below the poem for a small collection of excellent and mighty rivers.

The Kinks Of The Mighty River 

You must live like a mighty river.
Like Mississippi, who never questions
why her banks crumble;
why she kinks and curves.

Battle-proud, you too must lurch and flow
as Mississippi must dance
with all she knows, beating on
to the Gulf of Mexico.

Yes, you must live like the mighty river.
Welcome each tributary with equal pleasure.
Invite the White and the Red
and the Big Muddy river.
Let the sediment sink;
make the dirt your treasure.

Yes, you must live like the mighty river.
Bathe in the thrust of silt and foam
Like Mississippi, bend but never break,
Brace the banks
until the ocean
pulls you home.

Kali Gandaki river, Nayapul, Nepal. February 2015
Sho River, Shirakawa, Japan. May 2015
Sho River, Shirakawa, Japan. May 2015
Kampot river, Kampot, Cambodia. October 2014

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