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45 The River

hexagram-45-river‘THE MELLIFLUOUS NAME is peculiar to English: locals splutter on a tangle of
consonants – a cormorant’s nest, with ramparts of broken vodka bottles.’

Lingering here is unsettling, holding you back from your longings. From
the fissure in mountain roughness most people gravitate downstream,
knee-deep in alpine flowers, feeling the delta’s pull – the great escape, the
lure of houseboats with their clever little cupboards, wine bottles cooling
in a rope sling, glassy bootlace elvers endlessly weaving nothing.

1st – The Youthful River
Enthusiasm gurgles, chubby splayed fingers of innocence waving in a
brave new element: air. The life force is welcome here: even heather
makes all the mistakes of youth. When the exhausted salmon shows up, it
spawns as if to prove the point, unable to rest in this turbulent nursery.

2nd – The Festive River
Drinking booths, pie stalls, fortune tents raise a carnival from
frozen river iced enough for salted braziers burning purple and green.
In his drunkenness a courtier upsets a fire basket, but no harm is done.
Scrape the frost and you’ll see the flounder halted in its gentle wave.

3rd – The River Bank Refectory
A brood forms a circular queue in a sand burrow. There’s an azure flash
with its catchlight of silver – a minnow presented, minute in the formal
moment, to the chick in the opening. A little gulp, then off the fishwife
flies. They shuffle round, tick-tock of gapes, most urgent tiny hungers.

4th – The Conflicted River
Sturgeon have returned to the cloaca maxima: this rumour hangs in the fog
like a memory of mint on the steppes. Then one day a big fish is landed.
The heart lifts, then sinks again – it’s a scrofulous eyesore dragged onto a
beach of clay pipe shards upstream of the Romany bathing bank.

5th – The Royal River
The unique celebratory proposition is oars and hulls at random angles
– the ‘Canaletto moment’. At the knot of the plume, a Venetian barque,
with a medley of grim and smiling faces, the jubilee of quick-slow
dynastic succession. The Thames is getting wilder, the sewers straining.

6th – The Indomitable River
When a head of state swims naked in a river, these days he keeps his
clothes in a locker – not piled on the bank where a lady journalist might
sit on them, demanding an interview. Even ice will seldom obstruct
history: water slithers on its belly, a commando beneath the searchlights.

All six – The Valedictory River
How well the most watchable action fits a picture of stillness, distance,
reflectiveness – the view towards the ocean. High on the bluff the elders
settle into their estate, the relaxing vista of offspring tracing curves along
the mudflats. Farther out, hazy red sails are native, scarcely moving.

Introduction to Six-Way Mirror | The Index of Hexagrams and Cantos


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