There Is a River There is a river that I know that flows through quiet meadowland Nearby a row of cottages which by a levee quaintly stand. I saw that river long ago, when one day, to amuse myself I built a jigsaw puzzle which my parents kept upon a shelf. As piece by piece, the puzzle grew, there entered my enraptured sight A bright bucolic scene that filled my youthful heart with sheer delight. There in that place, a tiny sailboat drifted on the flowing stream, Which glistened in the morning sun, like some rare vision in a dream. I longed to be there in that boat, but knew not where to find the door To enter in that scene which stirred up feelings I'd not felt before. There is a footpath that I know that winds beneath the clouds of heaven And stretches out across a vale as sweeping as the moors of Devon. I saw that footpath long ago, when one day, I was feeling bored And pulled from off the shelf a book that hitherto I had ignored. Upon the cover of the book, I saw a picture of that trail, And felt my heart so strangely stirred by feelings that words always fail To suitably express (so otherworldly and sublime are they)-- A longing to go on that path across the hills and far away, A yearning to find out what lies beyond the rim, just out of view, A pining for that pleasant land reserved for heaven´s privileged few. There is a seashore that I know that goes on endlessly, it seems, Beside a rolling ocean whose dark waves reflect the sun's bright beams. I saw that seashore long ago, when one day, driving by the sea I saw a lonely strand of golden sand and felt it calling me. The hour was late; I could not stop; I left it for another day, But many years and many miles have kept that seashore far away. Sometimes I travel there in thought, and walk in bare feet on the sand And watch the sun sink down atop the blowing dunes whereon I stand. I hear the ocean's hollow roar as, wave on wave, the tide rolls in, And long to be there ere night falls and my life's evening sky grows dim. Somewhere, the gleaming river flows across the lush green meadow still, The footpath on its winding way still stretches over dale and hill, The lonely seashore beckons yet, its solemn roar still calls to me, And in my thoughts, I still respond by looking out across the sea. When I am gone, such sights as these will come into some pilgrim's view And stir up longings for a timeless realm, forever fresh and new. Like some celestial wind, sweet thoughts into another's heart will gust To stir an ache too deep for words, a wondrous sense of wanderlust. Another's heart will feel the rapture I have felt, when I have gone Where rivers flow and pathways wind and golden sands stretch on and on. On Going Through Old Pictures The other day, I stumbled on some pictures in the basement Stored in an old, forgotten trunk beneath the window casement— Old family photos, left behind by former generations, The sight of which aroused in me some strangely sweet sensations. A fading old daguerreotype stood out from all the rest, The kind made by those pioneers who settled the Old West. It showed a family gathered in their Sunday best to make A graphic image of themselves, for their descendants´ sake. In two straight rows, they posed, with frozen stares, their bodies rigid. They looked so stern and stoic, you would think them rather frigid. Their drab and rough-hewn garments and their reticence to smile Showed they had little time for social graces, charm, or style. The women, with their dour look and hair tied in a bun And faces worn with work showed they had little time for fun. The men with their stiff collars, looking awkward to a man, Showed they would have preferred to be out working on the land. Besides that striking photo, there were others, likewise faded, Their paper yellowed with the years, their quality degraded. They say a picture´s worth a thousand words, and that is so; For without words, these pictures told a tale of long ago. Each photo whispered stories that would fill a lengthy book; In each, the subjects stared at me with penetrating look. Across the years they gazed, with piercing eyes, both sad and sage, Their faces fading, faded, gone, based on each photo´s age— Once cherished faces, now forgotten, buried out of sight Within a trunk for many years, then lately brought to light. I felt a strange affection for these gray ghosts of the past, Whose life´s blood now flows in my veins while my short life shall last. I looked at their faint image, captured now in two dimensions, And thought, “I am the living fruit of their noblest intentions!” They came to an unsettled land to build a legacy For future generations of descendants (such as me!) They lie now silent in the soil, and nothing yet remains Of their life´s dedication, toil, their daily sweat and pains. Yet here I am, their son and heir, their grateful progeny, And though the world has greatly changed, their spirit lives in me. In me there lives the same desire to breathe sweet freedom´s air, To walk the length and width of this great land without a care, To know that where I go, I may, with boldness, speak my mind, Free from the tyrant´s lash, who with his chains my tongue would bind. I find in me the same contempt for all forms of oppression, As though men could compel by force another man´s confession. I see in me a deep respect for those who freely labor To serve God without fearing men or currying their favor, Who seek to live a noble life, with vision for tomorrow, With hope that looks beyond brief days of hardship, trial and sorrow— A hope that dares to face each test with persevering courage That´s founded on God´s promises, which strengthen and encourage. In looking at my ancestors, I also clearly see Life´s swiftly passing nature, and my own mortality. Their absence makes me conscious of a truth I can´t deny— The briefness of the time that´s left to me before I die. I feel the mounting years pile up and press me from behind; The pressure builds, the earth gives way and rushes forward blind— Like tumbling rocks on top of me, the years, cascading, fall And grind me into powder pressed against a moveless wall. I try to flee the avalanche, but cannot get away, For soon the years will leave me buried under tons of clay. I can´t escape the flow of years, their steady forward rush, For when my life collides with death, I´ll face the final crush. I would hold fast to life, but know my mortal flesh must yield To time's eroding forces, which will plant me in a field Some day, when I lie down at last to leave this world of strife, Dismantled, yet held fast by Him who is the Lord of life. I praise, therefore, the God of life! In Him I put my trust, For though my fragile frame, like theirs, will one day turn to dust, He lives forever, and His power, all earthly power surpassing, Will raise me from the dust of death to glory everlasting! For those in Christ, the windswept grave won´t have the final word; Though pictures fade in darkened basements, in a trunk interred, The souls of those who sleep in Christ will never fade away, They rest for now, but by God´s power, will rise at break of day! Martin Rizley grew up in Oklahoma and in Texas, and has served in pastoral ministry both in the United States and in Europe. He is currently serving as the pastor of a small evangelical church in the city of Málaga on the southern coast of Spain, where he lives with his wife and daughter. Martin has enjoyed writing and reading poetry as a hobby since his early youth.