Map Turtles of the Pere Marquette River

 

May the peace of the Pere Marquette River

Be with you always, and the map turtles

You pass, those illustrated river gods

Basking on the treefalls and the boulders

 Like immortals beyond the flow of Time:

May their Taoist equanimity be yours

As they watch your arrival and departure

From the stations of the river they mark,

Those one-faced Januses of rivers and Time—

Moments from turning to stone, one you drift

Too near and it slips to the cold clear waters

And simply melts away—these sublime reptiles

In their keeled olive shell and clownish pale frown,

The swirling cartography, green on white,

Tattooed on their skin, on which there’s a river,

A kayaker, a boulder, a sunning turtle

Whose skin maps again the sunning turtle,

And you once more easing by with your paddle,

And so there’s no end to your peace on the river,

The peace that is the fullness of consciousness;

And may there always be a wooded bend

Before you and a wooded bend behind,

The harlotry of the ebony jewelwings

And the royal decree of the kingfisher,

A fleeing blue heron that beckons you on,

With the water inconceivably clear

Over the sculpt sands and mosaics of pebbles,

The glimpsed trout like amber in the running sap

Of the water; and may the map turtles

Of the Pere Marquette await you always.