A Symphonic Ode to the Susquehanna by John FilsingerA 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
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
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