Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Symphonic Ode to the Susquehanna by John Filsinger

A Symphonic Ode to the Susquehanna by John Filsinger 1993
  When errands take us down to nearby Clearfield town,

We glance or fondly gaze from fronting streets or bridge

At your enduring, slowly-moving form, more calm

With deep reflections since our bicentennial’s

Authentic reconstruction of a raftsmen’s dam.

If leisure grants us time to pause and contemplate,

More aptly do we feel your quiet pulsing flow,

And sense the stilled vibrations of your long ago…

Reflections of your early history appear,

When Indians alone perceived your mysteries…

Conceived Chinklacamoose from passing dugout logs

When pioneers canoed upstream remarkably

To probe your upland arteries, and fashion farms

From trackless woods, and mills to grind sustaining grains.

Then came the hearty foresters who used your floods

In spring to move their timer rafts to Chesapeake,

Through labyrinthine rapids, hidden rocks, and mud;

You were the avenue for giant, virgin pines,

Floating to be the perfect masts of great tall ships,

To hold their sails unfurled in winds around the world.

Through changing times you rolled along two hundred miles

Of West Branch forest slopes, past smoke, and curse or


Of men, observing alteration of your clay

And sand and rocks to rust-iron glare from draining mines,

Then mix with human waste and slime of industry

To cripple and then kill your pure, wild legacy.

But happily in recent years a counterforce

Of wiser men has recognized the sanity

Of cleaning up the air we breathe – the earth where you

Can live and flow again with some impunity,

And we can fish, and swim, and ride your fresh clear tide

To feel a pride in Nature’s pristine custody.

We love in wintertime to make cross-country tracks

With skis in new-laid snow across a treeless ridge,

And mark below your raven route past pillowed banks

Where rocky ranks held summer, sway; another day

More frigid winds blow free, insistently, to lace

And seal with frozen glaze your wrinkled, seasoned face.

Sometimes in early spring when we are seeking out

The cryptic, fleeting fragrance of Arbutus trailing blooms,

We hear your distant horns’ or flutes’ full-throated rush

From bellows of fast-melting snows on northward slopes,

Then hasten to a clear strategic resting place   To see the gushing power of your quickened pace.

When warming days have urged the ice to break and


Your frozen parts fulfill their postponed destiny

To go downstream; at first they strive impatiently

To rush away, then gently down more distantly,

Diminishing to merge into your liquid whole…

We’re waiting now for perfect time to launch canoes,

And share resurgence of the budding hills with you.

The winds of March have calmed; the bear has left

his den;

The daffodils have flowered; the wren has come


And now we feel an urgency that we must choose a


To take an April ride with you along your winding


Through northern woods, where banks give hint of

rising grass,

Where think-packed rhododendron growth and laurel


Will burst in June to myriad blooms of pink and white.

The mottled slopes that rise above show subtle


And tones, as hardwoods resurrect from winter


To frame tall pines and hemlocks’ fine viridity,

While early silver maples’ erubescency

Preens o’er the tilted hills and fills our springtime


With thrill of nature’s saving liberality.

In fullest spring we feel your flow more pointedly:

The sun upon your rippled face is multiplied

Ten thousandfold—divided into quaking sparks

Of nearby clustered galaxies in speeding flight,

Caught for us briefly in your effervescency,

As though we ride through stellar realms in


Beyond imagination’s wildest portraiture.

In summertime, we often walk for exercise,

Through shaded, fern-filled, log-strewn Appalachian


To grassy knolls from which we note your dwindled


Crawl serpent-like among large rocks; reluctantly

You drain sustaining underground capacities,

And yield your fresh indentity to saline sea.

We’ll come again in fall to see the treasured tinits   Of Aspen, beech, and cherry boughs, or chestnut


Midst multi-cohered maple leaves, or scattered larch,

And you will be more difficult to navigate,

Meandering from side to side in shallow state,

But we’ll be intimate with your most hidden traits,

As our canoe has autumn rendezvous with you.

Now gradually we hear your pounding waterfalls,

And we must pay attention to those urgent calls,

That we may prove our steering art’s dexterity

To find a proper downward rush among the rocks….

Too soon it is upon us and your laughter’s roar

Surrounds our palpitating hearts’ rapidity,

As we plow through your writhing foam’s complexity.

And then we take our rest with you on broad deep


Your thunder slowly fading as we drift and cool

Our flaming foreheads with full handcups of your


Refreshing store; it’s time for lunch—that boulder


Protruding from the bank will serve as perfect scene

For roasting wieners and for spreading our cuisine….

Above, the gliding hawks keep watch, and so we


Aloft to wonder at their heaven-soaring grace.

It is not long till excitation stirs again;

Our paddles like enormous hands soon fondle your

Resilient physicality with coaxing strokes;

Our hearts respond as to a lover’s passion-breaths,

More ardently when you cry out in ecstasy

Of sound and thrust through narrow funneled


Then shiver out at length to quivering expanse,

Where hundreds of your bottom rocks protrude


Your dazzling surface light, as bright as eyes in love.     Other writings of John Filsinger   A TIME TO STAY   A TIME TO GO   JOHN & MARJORIE FILSINGER SPANISH SCHOLARSHIP FUND    BUY  IN QUEST TRUTH BEAUTY  rare autographed copy

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