The Fourth River

Tributaries: “News”

By on October 19, 2016

By Jelle Cauwenberghs


A group of children sat huddled like a raft of survivors
around a small island tidal with shards of green glass and pottery,
their feet behind a stockade of twigs.
The sea was left to their imagination. I could not tell where they drew that line,
or how large their small world was, whether they accepted survivors from other wrecks.
I cannot say whether their island was safe, or how the weather worked.
It was their game.
They seemed to be discussing the architecture of their first settlement.
There was talk of round houses as opposed to long houses.
How many dogs each family should be allowed.
One kid said five and all approved.
It was an easy democracy. It was early in their history.
The twigs marked the space where they could raise their children and not infringe
on what they had named the forest, and it seemed to me that what I had called their stockade
was a wilderness so enormous only the edge was visible to the inhabitants.
They had not mapped it out.
The villagers were singing. I was told they were happy, it was a day of celebration.
It had been a full week since they gathered on a sunny day and had no chores. They were bored
with the sandbox.
A great fire was burning with food and shiny buttons in abundance.
There was no dentist in their town.
There was no impossible wall as far as I could see
that would keep out an invasion or rain, and they never asked me for my papers,
or what I was doing there in the middle of the ocean with my redwood height
and clothes that must have come over the earth like storm clouds.
I was a giant in their mossy, charmed world of play. They had not much use for me.
I was bad news from the mainland.



“Jelle Cauwenberghs is a poet and wilderness guide based in Edinburgh, UK. He was born in 1984. His poetry and nonfiction have appeared in Orion Magazine, Caught by the River, the journal Environment, Space, Place and other online publications. He is currently working on his first poetry collection.