A River from "The State Of The Planet"

By Robert Hass

The people who live in Tena, on the Napo River,

Say that the black, viscous stuff that pools in the selva

Is the blood of a rainbow boa curled in the earth’s core.

The great forests in that forest house ten thousands of kinds

Of beetle, reptiles no human eye has ever seen changing

Color on the hot, green, hardly changing leaves

Whenever a faint breeze stirs them. In the understory

Bromeliads and orchids whose flecked petals and womb-

Or mouthlike flowers are the shapes of desire

In human dreams. And butterflies, larger than a child’s palm

Held up to catch a ball or ward off fear. Along the river

Wide-leaved banyans where flocks of raucous parrots,

Fruit-eaters and seed-eaters, rise in startled flares

Of red and yellow and bright green. It will seem like poetry

Forgetting its promise to be sober to say that the rosy shinings

In the thick brown current are small dolphins rising

To the surface where gouts of oil are oozing from the banks.

Oil companies want the oil, of course, and energy companies

Want the current which the river dolphins ride as if

The power of life the river gathers to itself were purely play,

were the living force in things and purely play.