Poetry Friday: Take Me To The River

May 29, 2020

The commercial river trip season on the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park was supposed to have started in April. But, like most things, it’s been sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic This week, officials at the Park announced plans to let river trips resume in mid-June. It’s unclear how commercial outfitters will rebuild trip schedules and bring back employees J.P. Running has been a guide on the Colorado River for nearly 30 years. He is missing his job, obviously, but he’s also missing the Canyon. In this week’s Poetry Friday segment, J.P. shares a poem he wrote called Chasing the Seasons with Orion. It transports us to the banks of the Colorado River.

J.P. Running is a long-time guide on the Colorado River
Credit J.P. Running


JPR: My name is JP Running. I’ve been a river guide pretty much more than half my life, over 30 years now. A friend of mine asked me to write a little piece for the Grand Canyon River Guides Association newsletter. I started out writing a story, and I realized that it was actually not quite a story but more of a poem.

What I wanted to think about when I was writing the story was, kind of, not being able to see where home has been for more than half my life. You know, what do I think about throughout the course of the summer and the river season?

J.P. Running, long-time guide on the Colorado River
Credit J.P. Running

I always thought about time. You can always witness time. You can actually feel the world changing through time, through the course of a summer. Missing out on that due to current circumstances is kind of a daunting reality to face. I thought about times at Pearce Ferry in the fall, and then times at Lee’s Ferry in the spring. 

So, my story actually changed into a poem, and it’s called Chasing the Seasons with Orion.

The velvety blue dawn

The aroma of that first cup of coffee

I woke too early

My eyesight isn’t what it used to be

But I can still see the Pleiades

Orion is chasing them

It’s fall

Time for the River to sleep after a long summer

Happiness mixed with a little adversity

But mostly happiness

The ripples on the water reflect that velvety sky

Fleeting reflections of the universe

J.P. Running, long-time Colorado River guide
Credit J.P. Running

How can one not feel gifted to see such a living, breathing reality

A sentient entity

I feel small

My coffee tastes good, it warms me

My body is tired, my feet are cracked, my back hurts just a little bit

Small annoyances

Like the flies in monsoon season

But not too much of a bother

The ripples gently start glowing orange, reflecting the cliff walls

Contrasting the blue dawn in their troughs

The Pleiades start hiding in the brightening blue sky

Orion chases them for a few more moments

People begin stirring

Day begins

Coffee, breakfast, adventure

Life and gift of reality

Reverence mixed with lots of laughter

Happiness

Night always comes again

It represents just a tick of time

A week, or a month, or a year

Or a lifetime

Orion chases the Pleiades

I look forward to seeing them outrun him

In the spring

In the western evening sky

Time will forget me

But I will remember time.

(Music: Take Me to the River, Talking Heads)

Poetry Friday is produced by KNAU's Gillian Ferris. If you have an idea for a segment, drop her an email at Gillian.Ferris@nau.edu.