River Fragments: A Hydraulic Self Portrait – Poems and an Image by Razielle Aigen

River Fragments: A Hydraulic Self Portrait

Was aber jener teuer der Strom,
Weis neimand

Hölderlin, Der Ister


We swim fathoms
for our life

over a nameless

running against backwards
seeming currents,

imposing persona
on the air,

personified embodiments
of how we’d like to be

by water.

The sea speaks
Moon perfectly well.

The moon is fluent
in Ocean. Hey, listen,

if there’s something happening in your orbit,
I need to know.


What then is a river
if not a hymn,

if not a reverted tragedy
running backwards?

The malachite tinted geyser
catches cathartic

midday light.
An interstitial double helix neon sign

flickers pity and fear
at night.

We feel nearer
to what’s really happening in life.

But don’t think it’s all beer and skittles. Honestly,
honey, it’s a bit of a miracle

I made it this far
without all the psychedelics.

As for Aristotle, it’s a coke bottle —
the ground of tragedy is form.

All else is a less than curvilinear

of the tragic,
a colossal waste of time.


A time lapse locality.
The journeying it takes to oar our way

through the nudity
of History and Self. At once so big and so small

are the measures of becoming.
For water,

it’s never personal. For water has no

In homely return
to the endless, we seem

unconscious. Like, could this one be the one?
The final and the first dream?

We are the simultaneity
of the in-between and of the bellow, and also,

and also of the above
in an imaginative paradox, a magnetic enigma,

an uncanny memory
carved in the riverbed by time’s silt,

a tide
we cannot unfix from our mind.

What we recall of what we thought of
as our right turns out to be right,

to have a piece of this
pelagic dwelling,

for now, for the duration, for the time being,
for being as such.

O trees!
O rocks!
O sand!
O rivers!
O running, running, running towards a forever proverbial



Rowing backwards through fathoms,
vapidity gnaws a seething

non-referential bout
of spleen,

into the weakened blank spaces
of a pelvis,

leaving transhistorical tooth marks
that beg

the question,
What do these retrograde waters want?

Am I being punished
by the sea?

Could I have prayed with a little more diaphragmatic conviction,
a little more oompf, to the river?

Could I have had the wherewithal to love
the waterfall

more gently even, with greater

Erstwhile, radical poetic care
builds a whole new woeful chorus of regrets

in a signifying chain
pain   train   oven   camp   number   furor   ship   build   guilt

I’d have atoned in heartbeat
if only

I knew
what I’ve done, and to whom.

For the record, our shipboard
people came here

not in search of land, language, or wilderness
so much as refuge,

an uninhabitable

of relational

         effaced  names  lost  at  sea


At sea,
where we know our currents

most intimately,
a radiance emanates from the bends

of our riverbeds.
Slumbering eyelids aglitter,

a Tragic Beauty.

Light rebounds
off the high crests of cheekbones

and Pleiads of a placid brow.
A fine downy moisture glistens in the divot over an upper lip.

This was the beauty of our face, transfigured

suddenly overnight by occult little lines
of hoarfrost

now worn
as Aquarian age.

In this moment of momentary estrangement
do not mistake me

for someone else,
I’m no weeping downstream tree.

Please see me
for what I am, not

for the golden persimmon
I will one day yield.

You wake to discover
your own face,

and that mourning
may be an error,

for that which we’ve lost is language.
As par for the course, the rivers are coursing

elsewhere, to some other essence,
to some other signifying site.

You wake to discover
that you are the manifold

eyes of the green

you are your face,
you are your name.


You wake to find out that your
pleasure has been multiplied

by an uncanny manifold
and a necessary strangeness, signposts

in remembrance
of who you really are.

You say it’s an improvement
and I feel you, it’s true,

you’re not belligerent on purpose per se,
it’s just your proprioception —

it’s way off kilter,
going steady with the Abyss. This

is no time to impress extra personality on water.
This is no time to impose persona in the air.

This is no time to go do

drastic, this moment is not tragic,
it requires no action,

it is simply time
taking shape in the form of a river.

But what he does, the river,
Nobody knows.

Razielle Aigen is a poet and visual artist. Her debut chapbook is, “Light Waves The Leaves” (above/ground press 2020). Her poetry and interviews have been published in journals across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. More of her work can be found on her website, razielleaigen.com. Tweets @ohthepoetry

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close