Friday, January 9, 2009


If you're a poet or a visual artist, maybe you can relate to this micro-issue I've been having (and it's not the issue of having adopted the idiom, "to have issues")--namely, that I've had the image of a barge on a river stuck in my mind. That's all. Just a barge on a river--preferably on a river at night, but not necessarily. And preferably a barge that's just drifting. I saw many barges on the Rhine, decades ago, and I saw some on the Mississippi once, and I see barges and tankers in the Pacific Northwest, but all of this experience doesn't explain why the image is stuck in my mind like lint in a dryer-screen. I like that metaphor for my mind: empty, full of hot air. Apt.

I mean, it's not like this image has some overwhelming import to it--like the image of the mountain in Close Encounters or the image of the moth-man in The Moth-Man Chronicles.
What's more, or what's less, this image of the barge is demotic at best. My sense is that barges aren't regarded as glamorous or even mysterious.

Anyway, attempting to have done with the image, I tried to put it in different poems, including this one. If you're stuck with an image, I hope it's a better one than a barge, and I have faith that you can do more with your image than I've with mine.

To a Temporary One

Ah, temporary one, why do you
fret so? Why don't you let it all
go like a barge adrift on a smelly
river? Temporary one, what
do you imagine you can stop
or start in your short time
and with your granules of power?

You ride atop a transitory train.
There's no point in yelling
at the city you pass by, asking
why the city doesn't do things
differently. Get off that train.
Forget that barge. Leave

all that complicated freight
to someone else. Yo, temporary
one: Live it out as best you can,
leave it at that, as it leaves you.

Copyright 2008 Hans Ostrom
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