Which Part Is the River?

© Matthew Word Bain

a long time carving
a steady channel

water flows

stone through its
relentless yielding

is the river the water?
or is it the earthen groove?
is the river the rain that falls?
or the tributaries contributing?

what is the difference
between what a river is
and what a river does?

when I think about it
I can see why we pluralize
headwaters, as there is not really
any one place where a river
begins, just as there is not really
any one place where a river ends

and that is as much the case
laterally as it is longitudinally:
have you ever tried to determine
the precise edge of a river on its bank?

the more refined the attention we bring
to any object of study, the more ambiguous
we find the very boundaries we use to define it

can we separate the river from its context?
must we not instead rely on the context
in our attempts to define the river?

definition and boundary are
themselves inextricable
from one another
we cannot have definition
without employing boundary
is there a clear boundary
between the two?
need there be?

is there anything in this picture
which is separate from the river?