Poetry – Shelley Getten

RIVER – A Haibun

We drive to the end of the lane in an old Ford truck. There, a gravel pit gapes like a hungry mouth, and a charming metal gate ushers us into the farthest corner of pasture where we get our first glimpse of rushing water. Its music wafts over us, as we look up and down at the zigzag design – artistry of the current which devours the edges, carves the land.


Water over rocks –

sweet lullabies beckon –

a crayfish sleeps.


On my new horse, I gallop over the hilly path as if on a roller coaster.  At the crossing, where cattle hooves have worn away the bank, I tie Lady to a tree, remove shoes and socks, step into the cold caress of rapids.  My feet are magnified, as I open arms to sky and possibility.


Afternoon heat,

shrill buzzing in high branches –

cicadas find mates.


On hot summer days, my friends and I ride bareback in bikinis – grime and hair of sweaty horses stuck to inner thighs like bathtub rings. At the river, our steeds plunge agreeably into its swirling eddies. We wrestle each other off our mounts, kick up confused turtles and darting frogs.  Exhausted and cool, we rest in the shadow of a giant oak. Our horses shake dry like dogs, and graze contentedly, despite the flies, at which they nip and swish wet tails.


Grandmother Oak

casts her cool shadow –

a crow in her hair.


Fighting at home compels me to distance myself from the house. Alone, without my equine companion, I watch the ground pass swiftly under my feet, until I stand in the cool rush of the stream, cry, scream.  Before long, my hopelessness subsides, as if carried away on the current.  Watching bubbles float under the fence and out of sight, I am restored.


A warbler lands

between properties –

slight bend of barbed wire.


Some days, I wander far beyond our land – squeeze between strands of rusty barbs, until I am beyond known territory.  Unaware of whose farm I’ve encroached upon, I follow the river, bounce on logs suspended across, catch snakes and tadpoles for fun.  I am so far from home, that I come to a bridge, a road.  It is there, I turn around, nervous that someone will see me trespassing.  After once again leaving “civilization”, I eat my sack lunch in the company of someone else’s cattle.


Cows stare sleepily

in my direction – silence –

our mutual friend.


Autumn arrives and gravity pulls weakened leaves from their trees.  Like thousands of scattered puzzle pieces, they are tossed. Some fall in the river.  I watch each lonely leaf float by, until it rounds the bend downstream, or congregates with others as it sinks, creating clusters that get stuck between rocks.


Mosaics of color

arranged on the river bed –

Who is the artist?


When snow is deep, my mare lifts legs high to clear her knees then plunges another hoof into the unknown.  Bells around her neck jingle as she labors to take me to the crossing where the frozen river holds us both.  I clear off a circle, peer down at bubbles suspended in time, and pebbles polished in ice.


Beneath a frozen

river, within its stillness –

an echo is heard.


On the other side of the river, new growth stands of oak and birch host squirrels and birds in abundance.  It is there I build a tee-pee fort of long branches – a shelter and hide-out – a new destination.  Beside it, along the bank, wild plums grow in abundance.  When at last, they are large and succulent, I savor them in small bites.


Setting sun reddens,

heavy on the horizon –

a ripe, wild plum.