Held

One year old, and he’s discovering the river,
dropping stones in at the edge, retrieving them.

He loves containers, says his mother,
then wonders, is a river a container?

The riverbed is: it curves its way from Roeburndale
down through these woods of wild garlic and bluebells,

letting the winding stony vessel of itself be filled
with springwater, meltwater, rainwater,

water which also contains things – you can plop
a stone into it, take it out again,

and here are glints of fish and floating twigs,
silt, insects, air-bubbles, ducklings –

and if the river’s a container, so’s a song,
holding words and tune; an eggshell

holds a bird, the atmosphere
enfolds the planet; everything is like a basket

says the basketmaker, the earth contains us,
we contain bones, blood, air, our hearts.

We are baskets and makers of baskets,
and fresh from the hold of the womb

the boy-child’s discovering how things
are held by other things: milk in a cup,

food in a bowl, a ball in his hands,
a stone in water, water in a nest of stones.

From Held, © Elizabeth Burns