“Not My River”

I fished the last day of the season
under a pale autumn sky,
on a river I don’t call my own.

I know this unpromising water
about as well as a woman met in an airport lounge
before a flight to Havana, or Vladivostok
when for a moment much felt possible.

If the sun had risen further south
the river would have been shadowed
by a monument on a volcanic cone
in memory of a Scot who made his name
breaking up farming estates

but the sun rose from its usual place
to cast the shadow of willows onto the quiet flow
on which yellowed leaves pirouetted
their way downstream.

Mallards burst into the sky, arcing towards the surf
beyond the highway, and the only trout I saw
spotted me, and sped off, towing an arrowhead
across the silky surface

leaving me to contemplate a new season
unshadowed by pandemic
and the possibility of returning
to a river I call my own.

Dougal Rillstone (May, 2020)