Recently, a friend shared with me a lovely book of poems by Mari L'Esperance, who, it turns out, is a friend of a mutual friend. (We live in a Facebook world in which everyone is connected by the tenuous thread of knowing everything and nothing about those we claim as ‘friends’).
I was touched by the gift. I had just returned from a visit to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and still felt a glowing appreciation for the city’s hard-working history and rugged beauty. As I paged through the book, I landed on this poem — featuring the iconic rivers that run through Pittsburgh’s heart — first.
Synchronicity, it seems to me, made apparent by a poem.
As Told by Three Rivers
Eight a.m, up too late the night before
learning the nose and throat, the bones
of the hands. Rounding a corner
on the seventh floor of Eye & Ear, the view
from the window takes you by surprise:
the city of Pittsburgh fanned out before you,
its verdant wedge of land softened
by the arms of three rivers, their names alone
like music — Monongahela, Allegheny, Ohio —
threading their slow eternal way home,
knowing. You think of Naipaul’s book, how
that distant mythic river in that distant
unnamed place reminds you somehow
of these three rivers meeting, the purpose
in their joined ambition as it should be,
how their journey tells the same story,
a story of becoming, of knowing one’s place
in the world. Standing there at the window
you see how everything that’s come before
has brought you here, how it all makes sense,
the three timeless rivers moving forward,
deliberate and without questions, telling the story
of the life you have chosen, of the life
you could not help but choose.
— Mari L'Esperance
from The Darkened Temple
Winner of the 2007 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry