Bend in the River

In looking back, a moment since it seems,
the river ran, a fawn, leaping, cavorting;
and I beside would follow to the sea.

The river widened, hurried, running fleet,
bright, quickened water rippled, ruffling white;
soon I would come to ply the telling deep!

But the river rounded on itself, indrawn,
slow moving into quiet, eddied pools,
cascading down; another kind of dawn.

Faint echoes of the day gone by, so brief.
So clear the amber eyes that now I see
—my heart sung on the water like a leaf.



Leland James is the author of five poetry collections, four children’s books in verse, and a book on creative writing and poetry craft. He has published over three hundred poems worldwide including The Lyric, Rattle, London Magazine, The South Carolina Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New Millennium Writings, The American Poetry Review, The Haiku Quarterly, The American Cowboy, and The Ekphrastic Review. He was the winner of the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award and has won or received honors in many other competitions, both in the USA and Europe. Leland has been featured in American Life in Poetry and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
www.lelandjamespoet.com & https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/leland-james

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15 Responses

  1. Paddy Raghunathan


    There’s just so much going on in your poem that I worry my comments will be much longer than your gem of a poem. So I’ll try to be brief.

    From you running by the river, the fawn, the ripples on the river to the river drawing into itself to form eddied pools, there are so many beautiful images already.

    And that last stanza…wow. All on a sudden, it looks like you’ve been talking about meeting the challenges of the day, and not the river at all. But then your heart is singing like water on a leaf. We are back to the river again. Or are we?

    And all this in iambic pentameter. Congratulations on a fine, fine poem.

    Best regards,


  2. C.B. Anderson

    It makes little sense, yet it is so powerfully evocative that I wonder why most of us ever struggle to write something cogent and direct. I think you are onto something, Leland.

  3. Monika Cooper

    It was on a second reading that the pieces, the stanzas, the poem fell into place for me and made a whole. The fawn is the river in the first stanza, the young cavorting river.

    The speaker follows the river in its course. The river seems to be the flow of the speaker’s life. He expects it to break into the open sea but instead it takes an unexpected inward turn into a quieter course, in the third stanza. This is not a bad thing, it’s “another kind of dawn.” Life is bent in a contemplative, rather than active, direction.

    The last stanza has that golden mote, that particle, of Amazing Grace floating in it. The whole glides with the majesty of Virginia Harmony. And the message is similar: the homecoming is assured.

    The rhyme scheme is relaxed, with the second out of every three lines unrhymed. I like schemes like that, they reconcile the music of rhyme with some of the license that blank verse affords a poet.

    • Paddy Raghunathan


      Excellent review.

      But to me, this is the kind of poem which on each reading will register something new in the reader’s mind.


      • Monika Cooper

        Thank you. Yes, there is a lot going on in this piece and metaphors are shifting in a complex way.

        I do love how the quoted hymn is instantly recognizable from three very tiny and common words. Reminds me of how a salmon can detect and follow the most minuscule dilution of his home waters in a river and follow it all the way back. But fewer than the full three words here wouldn’t be enough.

  4. Cynthia Erlandson

    You set the mood so beautifully with your rhythm and imagery.

  5. Cheryl Corey

    Leland, I’ve often heard it said that our lives are like a river running to the sea, and that is the imagery I find in your poem. At times our lives are, as you say, like quickened water, rapids, cascades, and eddied pools, and we’re like the leaf, floating along, never truly in control. I don’t know if that’s what you were getting at, but that’s the feeling I come away with. A very soulful meditation.

    • Paddy Raghunathan


      I think Leland has deliberately left the poem open ended, and let each reader make his / her interpretation. Usually one finds this kind of imagery in free verse. To find it in metered poetry is very refreshing.

      Best regards,


      • Leland James

        Thanks for your comment, and you are correct about leaving the end to the reader. For me poetry raises questions and opens doors, It doesn’t answer the questions or close the doors. That, to my mind, is for readers.

    • Leland James

      Thanks for your thoughts. As to not knowing if you have what I was getting at. Please take a look at my response to Paddy Raghunathan below.

  6. Kate Farrell

    I love your poem. It brought to mind
    “The Brook” by Lord Tennyson.

    • Leland James

      I was not familiar with the Tennyson poem. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, and thanks for the kind words.

  7. Leland James

    Thanks to all for reading and the kind words. And the many interpretations, or wonderings…. I responded to a interpretation comment above, which I think fits here. For me poetry raises questions and opens doors, It doesn’t answer the questions or close the doors. That, to my mind, is for readers. Thanks again.

  8. Paul Freeman

    I’m reminded of ‘The Road not Taken’, though in this instance the narrator’s destiny is not in his own hands, but is decided by a bend in the river that takes him on another course.

    Or maybe both courses, the forking road and the tributary, are preordained and part of a higher plan.

    Intriguing, Leland!

  9. Leland James

    Very interesting. Particularly in light of one reading o Frost’s poem–vs. the common self-congratulations for being a maverick–that he would have ended up where he was going anyway.


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