We Pass Through Waters on the Way

by Paul Hooker

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. (Isa.43:2)

We pass through waters on the way
from mother’s womb to Father’s font,
and learn to swim the channels of our birth
as children part human, part divine,
who not at home in either region, wander,
rise through realms of wonder and delight,
knowing nothing more than pain and pleasure,
and wordless revel in the grace of play.

We pass through waters on the way,
in blue green pools in summer’s withering heat
and learn to plunge the fearsome deeper end,
lie supine and weightless at the bottom,
a little death, and breathless, cool and deep,
rest ‘til burning urgency compels
a resurrection, rise through parting water,
reclaim the shimmering surface of the day.

We pass through waters on the way
past shaded woodland creek or breaking wave
and learn to marvel and perhaps to envy
life’s greening, shining other world
with charms that lie beyond our puny reach;
when we by sleight of hand dare raise them,
they sing to us a song we cannot hear,
speak to us with words we cannot say.

We pass through waters on the way
through storm and swollen rivers’ murky flood
and learn to mourn and then to start again,
to stagger under loss’s grievous burden
bewildered, benighted, and alone
and still to rise and even cherish
what the howling wind and waters give us
no less than what they pitiless wrench away.

We pass through waters on the way
to time’s eternal river at the end,
and learn to gauge the ceaseless tugging current
drawing us insistently downstream
toward a place we do not, cannot know,
down from rising land whence rivers run,
to the cold embrace of river gods,
who nameless lift us, carry us away.

But at the final moment, for a heartbeat,
shall we not stand on Jordan’s nearer shore
and learn this last, this most enduring lesson?
The water is not barrier but bearer
through this life of wonder, an angels’ dream.
Pain and pleasure, love’s loss, heaven’s heartache,
what are they but rising tide to buoy us,
‘til we, at last rejoicing, drift away?