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In the Narrows

For Lois McNair Van der Leun who has gone home.

“Oh dear!” said Jill. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.”
— C. S. Lewis

I.
The first time down the path
The cave is hidden from your eye.
You wander in a deep ravine
That frames a slice of sky.

Your unsure step will stumble
Where lizards prance on leaves,
But still His stream will carry you
Through the stippled shadowed breeze.

You’ll come to where the bathers bare
Sun themselves on steaming stones,
And one child’s laughter scintillates
Like water flowing over bones.

Oak roots reach down across the rock
And map the drift of streams.
The bathers loll within their sleep,
And reflect the shape of dreams.

Snakes and crickets search the seams
Of granite eons made,
While leaves slip through the air to spin
On water stained with shade.

The solid rock betrays your feet.
Your steps become unsure.
The raven on the boulder bows.
His wings begin to stir.

The grass bends down before the wind.
The ferns bow in the fading light.
The clouds retreat, the stars emerge,
The ravine lies draped with night.
II.

But in such night what light awaits
This Dust of dreams on bone?
The path winds back to His high home
Through a forest turned to stone.

A rushlight glows within the dark
On the far side of His stream.
It is the cave, unnoticed Then,
Containing Now this life of Dreams.

A figure — phosphorescent, frail —
Will bid you to assume
That all within is as without —
As tunnel echoes tomb.

You’ll see within large shifting shapes
Of cities and of scenes
Remembered only as a film
Shown but once behind a screen.

You’ll hear the songs of sailors,
Songs of women, songs of war.
Your step will freeze, your head will turn,
Your hand will find an ancient door

That leads you to a steaming room
Where pale shapes writhe and wheeze,
While from below a gray mist floats
Upon the fetid breeze.

The chink of money, the lure of love,
Will fill your straining ears,
And you will hear your own voice say,
“Is all that is as it appears?”

III.

Awake! A far bell coming closer
Along the path of night,
In passing lights the lamps of stars
To guide you from this sight.

All is not as it appears.
All is as made and nothing more.
Within that cave confusion reigns
Upon the stained and skull-strewn floor.

Step back beneath the stars, step back.
Reclaim your second sight,
Fare forward far upon that path
Towards His lantern and His light;

To where His sunlight falling sings,
To where  His wind sleeps in the tree,
Where thought that thinks of thought is drowned
In the Mansions of His sea.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • gwbnyc August 15, 2021, 5:14 PM

    I grew up in NE Ohio with scenes similar to the stream in the foto. Moving north could bring you to a termination of the scarp revealing a wide vista of the Erie shoreline below, miles of it, at the end of the sloping plain left by receding glacier.

  • RigelDog August 15, 2021, 8:29 PM

    Thought immediately of this song by Steve Winwood: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtWi-Zs6a90

    “There’s a river pouring
    From a pure and a crystal stream,
    And it carries my heart along
    Carries me all my life
    And I know it will bring me home.

    There’s a choir singing
    With a force that can light the sky
    I will join with a voice deep inside
    Anthems for joys gone by
    And for joys I am sure will come.

    Golden treasure in the evening sky
    It’s good to be alive
    Golden measure, hear the music cry
    When my heart sings
    Of golden things.

    There’s a dove ascending
    Like my thoughts in the summer sky
    And she carries my soul along
    Clear to eternity
    And I know I am not alone.

  • Dirk August 16, 2021, 7:27 AM

    I love that you can share this, most men are to stupid to acknowledge the stunning Beauty of nature.
    It is one of your strength which allows you to share what our world offers, yet understand the position others have put us in, GV.

    While addressing the many situations, remain stoic.

    I dreamed last night!. I dreamed of this very creek, me with one of my bamboo fly rods chasing those strategically superior trout. It is truth that big native browns, are an elusive foe. When/if caught have earned the right of respect, and to be set free for another day.

    Life IS the lesson.

    Dirk

  • Vanderleun August 16, 2021, 10:03 AM

    INDEED it is Dirk. Indeed it is. And it is a lesson that will be repeated until you learn it. Then you will be given a new lesson.