Elizabeth Paul

Time is a River without Banks

I would be that Chagall couple, small, peripheral, on the banks of the Big Life and knowing it, tangential to the coursing, blue, and infinite as the sky.  I would be that couple, curled into itself, our own planet in a cosmos that takes no notice of us even while it embraces us because it must, because it does and will.

Let us admit that a single fiery fish is no less important.  Let us let music keep time.  So we can be ourselves, out of the way, the biggest and smallest thing, in a shadowy corner of our own, cool, slow, a tender midnight, charmed hour of quietude and all questioning hushed.  River sounds and reflections passing in our dream, deciduous visions of earth and the end of time.  Does our togetherness put them in the sky?  Or does their skyness put us here, laying our shapes together, in the night music?

I would be that couple again, before we started marking time, put the fish back in the river and returned to town, taking our preciousness as cargo, not yet asking how far we could carry it, which was inevitable.  Do you think it was inevitable?

We did not care, then, about more.  More was another neighborhood on another shore, opaque apartments with unlit windows, other people’s business.  We were better than that, though we didn’t know it then, too happy being ourselves to think about ourselves.

Now we can’t stop thinking about us, our lives, which don’t even picture in this vision, could never belong in this simple weightless oneness.  I don’t think it’s so far away.  I think it must be closer than breathing, than your hand on my forehead, but I can’t see it.  Can you see it?

Could a river hope, fish faith, and ignorance of time find us there again?  Would you proffer it through your lips, love?  I love when they say sweet things, blue things, water song, earth song, hope song, and promises.  Let the other things shine, burn, and fly, so we’ll sing ourselves, keeping all in orbit around us without trying, without being at the center, indeed through our hush and contentment.


Elizabeth Paul is a Chicagoland native currently living in Arlington, Virginia.  Her poems, essays, and collaborative work have appeared in Cold Mountain ReviewCarolina Quarterly,Cider Press ReviewDuende, and elsewhere.  Her chapbook Reading Girl is an ekphrastic exploration of paintings by Henri Matisse. Liz served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kyrgyzstan and currently teaches at George Mason University.  She enjoys too many sweets to pick a favorite, but the Nutella cream pie from the Bakeshop in Arlington never disappoints.

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