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Rivers and Their Meaning in Poetry: A Poem

Tim Truzy is a poet, short-story author, and he is currently working on several novels.

The Roanoke River at Plymouth, NC

The Roanoke River at Plymouth, NC

Rivers in Poetry

In poetry and other art forms, rivers symbolize a certain amount of indecisiveness. They may represent a progression along a treacherous route to reach a new point in life where all is more calm and secure. Indeed, river imagery is consistent with escaping from or to a station in life where a character wasn’t at the beginning of the work. Furthermore, writers use the power of the river metaphor to demonstrate changes throughout time; time itself may be portrayed as a mighty river.

For example, the famous American poet, Langston Hughes (1902-1967), used river metaphors to describe the state of people of color throughout time in his 1921 work: The Negro Speaks of Rivers. Earlier in literature, authors such as Mark Twain used rivers to illustrate an exit and re-entering into society. Of course, often a spiritual moment of self-recognition or a transformative event brings the character to the end of the journey, with a revitalized or ceased relationship with civilization. Overcoming boundaries, conquering borders, and rising beyond and through barriers to obtaining a goal is a frequent symbol of the river metaphor in literature. In fact, a re-awakening to freedom frequently is encountered.

Even today, the River Jordan is still used in gospel music to represent a “crossing” or as a representation of altering circumstances in life. The Nile River, Euphrates River, and the Congo River serve this purpose in some songs, too. Rivers are symbols of motion, movement, and eventual resolution in most works of literature and music. Below is a poem I wrote regarding our various rivers and how they influence our current existence throughout our lives. I took the history of one day in a person’s life and flowed with details. Enjoy: Timeless River. If you liked this poem, please feel free to leave comments in the section following this article. Thank you.

The South Branch of the Potomac River in Highland County, VA

The South Branch of the Potomac River in Highland County, VA

Timeless Rivers

Stars droplets circling burning coffee cup,

Drowning and pandering my conscious stream,

Milk meandering away from center,

Stirring reality to be is a dream.

Water tumbled gravity of sky,

Focus cosmic dripping down to my space

Dams beckoning beavers homeward to build,

Dashed motion forward alternative place.

Traffic black hole stops light my horizon,

Sipping my soul into quantum affairs,

Politics pyromania on piers,

Event duality office upstairs.

Autos kayaking smoking out windows,

Racing to fall over false golden cliffs,

Current news washed lakes to bank of shoreline,

Meaning fishing understanding bait long drift.

The Little River near Zebulon, NC

The Little River near Zebulon, NC

Math doesn’t count rapids swiftly enough,

Cosmic estuary DNA strands,

Strings universal water way shrinking,

Decks stacked above mouths shuffle our hands.

Effluent choked channels relax along rills,

Beds of galactic riparian forged,

Runoff source evaporate with eons,

Future maintains humanity will gorge.

Sagittarius A-Star hungers on,

Watershed everyday life flatters not,

Energy proverbial matter dark,

Final rivers surging to minute spot.

General memories ripple in me,

Relative time disappears in black holes,

Specific moments radiate the world,

Recycling body of river’s soul.

The PeeDee River in eastern South Carolina

The PeeDee River in eastern South Carolina

Rivers of America

The United States has approximately two-hundred thousand rivers, with the Missouri River being the longest river in the country. The Missouri is a tributary of the largest river in America by water volume, the Mississippi, which flows to the Gulf of Mexico. Some other major rivers in the United States include: the Rio Grande, Colorado, Snake, and the James River. The Yellowstone River, in the western portion of the country, is the longest undammed river in the nation. Here is some information about the photos of the rivers used above:

  • Little River – Many rivers are called “little.” That could present some confusion. However, in this case, The Little River begins in the Piedmont of North Carolina, eventually joining the Neuse River near the town of Goldsboro, N.C. The Little River is a tributary of the Neuse River, a major river in North Carolina.
  • Pee Dee River – The Pee Dee River begins in the mountains of North Carolina and continues into South Carolina. For the first 200 or so miles, the Great Pee Dee River is known as the Yadkin River, starting in Blowing Rock, N.C. The river takes its name from a Native American tribe.
  • Potomac South River – This River is located in West Virginia extending to other states. Its headwaters are located in Virginia. The South branch of the Potomac joins with the North branch to form the Potomac River near the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.
  • Roanoke River – This River begins in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It flows southeast through northern North Carolina until it reaches the Albemarle Sound. Along the way, at least six lakes are formed from the Roanoke River.

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