“The Same River” Jeffrey Harrison

1 post

Philosophy Needs Metaphor Like Cookies Need Milk

They say we stand apart from animals on one count and one count alone: we think metaphorically. What’s more, if you want to show off by thinking philosophically, metaphor is surely your friend.

This knowledge, paired with something that you as a writer hold deep knowledge of, is literary gold. Philosophically speaking (like Plato or Aristotle might if you gave them another chance), what is your pastime, passion, or skill like?

If you were to hew a poem from such a question, it would require descriptive and narrative skills (important stuff only, please) as well as the gift of comparing two unlike things that readers would agree are alike in some way, after all. Do it well and even the lion might crown you king of the beasts!

Wondering what this might look like? Today’s poem, by Jeffrey Harrison, gives us both a pastime (fly fishing) and a cliché (the same river twice) in order to create metaphor.

Could you do the same for something you love to do, Mr. or Mrs. or Miss Philosopher Slash Poet or Short Story Writer or Essayist? Rhetorical question, of course.


The Same River
Jeffrey Harrison

Yes, yes, you can’t step into the same
river twice, but all the same, this river
is one of the things that has changed
least in my life, and stepping into it
always feels like returning to something
far back and familiar, its steady current
of coppery water flowing around my calves
and then my thighs, my only waders
a pair of old shorts. Holding a fly rod
above my head, my other arm out
for balance, like some kind of dance,
trying not to slip on the mossy rocks,
I make my way out to the big rock
I want to fish from, mottled with lichen
that has dried to rusty orange, a small
midstream island that a philosopher
might use to represent stasis
versus flux, being amidst becoming,
in some argument that is larger
than any that interests me now
as I climb out dripping onto the boulder
and cast my line out to where the bubbles
form a channel and trail off in a V
that points to where the fish might be,
holding steady amid the river’s flow.


© 2014 by Jeffrey Harrison, from Into Daylight, Tupelo Press, North Adams, MA.