I stepped out of the piney wood and stood
Upon a river bank. The river roared
In turbulent and white-capped green. A good
Eye could not see across, though deep it bored.
Yet, halfway out, a boat. A person rowing
And pulling hard against the current, aimed
Upstream, a Red Queen in the rapid flowing
At best, but often losing what he'd claimed.
"My friend!" I yelled above the roar and mist,
"Why must you fight so hard against the flow?"
A leafy log flowed at him, barely missed.
The low sun made his shadow slowly grow.
The voice that came upon the air was weak,
"I'm out of water, food. A town's upstream
Where I can get the nourishment I seek.
But getting there's a nightmare, not a dream."
"Why fight the current? Turn around and guide
Yourself downstream. You'll find another town."
A silence as my waves reached him. He plied
Against the waves, but answered, flowing down.
"I don't know where those towns would be, but I
Know there's a town ahead, so I'll go there."
He then lurched back, which prompted my reply,
"The more you row, the more you go nowhere!"
"I don't know if there's towns downstream. I fear
I'll starve unless I go with what is known."
"How long have you been fighting?" "But a mere
Three days in this same spot," I heard him groan.
"You could have found a place by now and gone
Three hundred miles if you'd gone with the flow
The river offers you. Another dawn
And you'll become a lunch for some sharp crow."
"But I'm afraid. Besides, you tell me not
To fight, to just give up. I must fight through!"
"To row within the flow's a fight well-fought --
That life will become beautiful and true.
Don't be afraid of the unknown. Don't fight
The natural currents -- they will ease your life.
You'll fight the rules of life in pain. Delight
Will come when you flow through, around your strife.
You cannot beat the river -- all your hard
Work cannot overcome the water; soft,
The river wears down stones. You've only marred
Yourself. When with the air, the crow's aloft."
At once, the boat lurched with the current, turned,
And disappeared so fast, I could not hear
If he replied. I walked the bank. I yearned
To see where he made port, if it was near.
I walked three days along the river bank,
In mud and briars which held up my way.
And yet, through rain, my spirit never sank --
I knew that I would see my friend one day.
At last, I came upon a town. A boat
Was pulled up on the bank. I asked around
About the man. I heard a rumor float
Through town of him, but he could not be found.
So I went back the way I came, my home
A three-day walk. I heard a croaking crow --
I saw him on the bow upon the tome
That only he and I can ever know.