Reading: River by Sharon Black

In the depths of the Internet I found a poetry competition called “Poetry on the lake” that published last year’s winning poems. I am impressed enough to read one here.

River

To enter naked is to feel no shock, no swift laceration –

more a swallowing of the self, a softening

of edges by metallic tang and green.

It’s not to lose oneself but to find

one’s breasts, buttocks, sex

attentive and alive, each slow stroke upstream

a gift of walking to the part of us that’s lame,

a gift of sight to the part of us that’s blind.

The depiction of the entrance into the living river (the “metallic tang” and green signify the algae) is well done. The water is not too cold it seems: no laceration of the nerves but a friendly gobbling up of the body. In interpret the softening of the edges as the disappearance of the boundary between inside and outside.

You don’t lose yourself in the fresh water, but get in touch with your body, more precisely a woman gets in touch with the more pleasurable and intimate parts of her body, that she was taught to hide. The liven up and become attentive in the absence of a prudish culture.

So she starts swimming upstream (it takes some effort to reconnect with the true being of your body). She conquers the “part of her that’s lame” when she is swimming, free from the gravity of societal norms. This also means that she regains sight, in the sense that she becomes aware of the truth conceiled by these norms.

Such a reading is not satisfactory, but I think we can read the final line not as “seeing the light” of some metaphysical truth, but seeing in a certain way that is made possible by the river swimming. Thus the ‘softening of edges’ eventually leads to the reappearnce of these edges in almost Hegelian fashion, as the sharp sight from the vantage point of someone who has “worked through” the immersion experience. Do you, dear reader, think this poem references baptism?

Reading: River by Sharon Black was originally published on Meandering home

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