Secret of the River

If you go to Studio City, stop at the Los Angeles Riverfront Park, between Laurel Canyon Blvd. and Ventura Place (behind the parking lot of Bank of America, 12223 Ventura Blvd.), and visit four bench-like artworks made by artist John O’Brien. Engraved on these beautiful objects are excerpts from river-related poems by Los Angeles poets Amy Gerstler, Russell Leong, Majid Naficy and Martha Ronk among others. This art and poetry is part of a project for the preservation of the Los Angeles River and its natural habitats. Here is a pictures of the artwork as well as the text of my poem “Secret of the River” from which the first stanza has been engraved.   

Every day we go along the river

And your body

Takes on the smell of the water.

Seeing us, the wild geese

Tune up their battle horns,

And a cat behind its green hideout

Lifts its tail in triumph.

The old fishermen,

With their buckets full of sorrow

Move from place to place

And a palm leaf in our way

Forces me to bend my head.


I stand still

And as you sleep on my shoulder

I think to myself:

“It’s too late for me

But maybe you will find

The secret of the river.”  

— January 10, 1989  

This poem was first published in my collections of poetry  Muddy Shoes (Beyond Baroque Books, 1999) and Father and Son (Red Hen Press, 2003).

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