Caught by the River

Afon Rhiw

4th February 2012

Afon Rhiw (from Mass for Hard Times, R.S. Thomas)

Its methods were not sweeping
away, but by a continual plucking
to make one lose one’s hold
on its stones. Its character
was that of thought: smooth
brow with behind it the trout
rising and disappearing swiftly
as an idea. I angled
for them, dandling a fly
between one depth and another,
hoping for the mandala
to come to the surface to concentrate
the mind. What is existence
but standing patiently for a while
amid flux? Mostly the fish
nibbled out of my reach.
The fly soared, drying its wings
in the March wind before
redoubling its temptations ,
offering like life itself
a hook hidden among feathers.

Let me tell you that without
catching a thing I was not far
from the truth that time, since meaning
is not in having but trying.
Questioned, the trout had confessed
I was indistinguishable
from a tree, roots in darkness
my head in the clouds, and that
like thoughts, too, their best place
was among the shadows rather
than being drawn into the light’s
dryness to perish in too much air.