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Writing Challenge

for March 2010 is:


'The River'


A theme / title suggested by

Jan Hedger

(A member of GROW)


All submissions will be included in


(Deadline is Midnight on 31st March)

Paul Evans
Paul Evans

Stevenage Survivors

The River

A very good agricultural movie starring Sissy Spacek and Mel Gibson


The Dam bursts as torrents flow through

onlookers stare as animals flee.

Houses subside as crops glide by

perimeters down as cowboys frown


The River a defiant force of power and destruction

a life force of a community and a destroyer of business

Impoverished and poverty stricken nature wrecks a terrible revenge on a family struggling to the end


Prospect land developers seeking to gain

a new age where entrepreneurs hold the sway

the farming community defiant and strong

prices fixed produce reduced a forced retreat

in angst ridden trials


Industrial sabotage a strike breaking code

or spend the winter alone in the cold

employment confusion as hearts and minds

rebel this episode of anxiety will take it's toll


and so back home to the homely retreat

where all is not so pleasantly sweet tales of infidelity rain. While the river sweeps along and harvesting reaps a conclusion to savor until the levee breaks again 


If only I could write an ode
to Father Thames in London,

No words could compete
or capture the force
of power depicted in
Paul Evans description
But I will try.

For I remember Father Thames
when I was just a child
the flooding of the basement
with water lashing wild,
and now my children listen
with eyes of disbelief
for tower blocks pave the way
where houses lent relief.

Along the embankment
the barrier has been built,
when the tide is riding high
it cannot burst or tilt,
Father Thames has now been tamed
and kept within its reach
the Tower hotel has risen
where once there was a beach.

My river tales are not as strong
the Capatilists have moved in,
warehouses now are flats
and luxury dwells within,
Charles Dickens tells it better
before my childhood days,
with spade and bucket in my hands
a child within me plays.



“cry me a river, cry me a river
I cried a river for you”

The words from a bygone era
running through my mind
disturbing dreams of yesteryear,
yet how poignant the words.

In my minds’ eye
I see the tide rise and fall,
like the baton upon a drum
steady, sometimes slow then fast.

The waves beat upon the shore,
the rhythm of the river
disturbing, and yet so tranquil.

The small boats crossed the river
when I was a child,
fishing boats and war boats.

Such memories buried and yet so real,
the river was then my shield
that kept me safe.

From the invasion of chaos
that threatened my tiny world.

I remember steps
leading downwards
water lapping the sides,
holding on tightly
watching the boats
tossing, side to side.

Oars paddle the depths
murky brown
softening to mauve,
small black shapes
wildly darting into
the silvery shadows.

Tip the pail
upside down,
watch the tiddlers
silently flap
into the depth
of nowhere.

I watch
feel myself drown,
become part
of the incoming Tide.

Thomas Ritchie

Little Schuylkill

(pronounced skook-ull)


Thomas Ritchie



            The river was little more than a stream aggrandized, rarely more than thirty feet across and seldom more than ankle or shin deep. If Washington had chosen this river to throw a silver dollar a cross he would hardly have strained himself. It did not properly become the Schuylkill until it entered Berks County.

            The river flowed unambitously; lacking rapids, only marked here and there by lethargic swells that passed for white water. It turned indecisively upon itself, here and there as if indeterminate of direction or purpose. It never formed actual ox bows. That would require definite conviction. But always it flowed in the same direction; down, down, forever down.

            The rocks along its banks and bottom were discolored in varying shades of rust orange as though acquiring some taint from the land itself. As though the mine shafts sunk deep within it had ruptured something vital and it had bled out over the land. Or as the though the land, as well as everything else, had passed its purpose. Was but now only the decaying wreck of what once was, with little present and no future.

The word Schuylkill is an Indian word of indeterminate origin. The few enlightened (not that many) though embittered (almost all of them) citizens of the county would tell you it meant hole; or more poetically, the place of poo.

The river flowed, skirted, along the borders of the city limits of the county seat. A city named after the man who settled there. He had won a contract when Washington was president to provide masts for the ships of the navy dismasted in a storm. He came this far from Philadelphia to find pine trees that were sixty feet or taller. There were none left down that way. He was to float the logs downstream. To look at the river now you would say ‘damn, it must have been some deeper then’. Now you couldn’t float down it in an inner tube without banging your butt all the way.

By all accounts John Potts was an arrogant, opinionated, verbally abusive man. By turns tyrannical and cowardly. After awhile the Indians could not take it anymore and they killed his ass. Unfortunately they killed his entire family as well. But it was perhaps by then too late the attitude had become the mainstay of the county. A good deal of the people there are as hollow and black inside as the dark, abandoned coal mines left behind. The best among them indeterminately cowed.

And through and by all this the river flowed. And the river flowed forever and ever down.

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