Leaving With The River

I wrote this song when I was 18 or 19, making it one of the earliest songs included on this site. At the time I was doing volunteer work for Broadside magazine, which published new songs. I was there every day, and really did a lot of the grunt work in putting the very simple magazine together, including notating songs (which was surprising since I had no training in doing that other than what rubbed off from my remarkably musical Rail friends). As a result, they invited me to sing at a couple of their hoots, which happened monthly at The Village Gate. I was writing social protest songs mainly at the time, and I sang one at a hoot emcee’d by Pete Seeger. When I finished and went back to sit down, Pete had the seat next to me and put his arm around me. But it was at the other hoot, emcee’d by Julius Lester, that I sang this song. I had already sung once, but there was still time and Julius looked around for volunteers. I raised my hand and he picked me. I had my 12-string with me, and this song was meant for a 6-string so I asked another performer, Janice Ian (going by her real name, Fink, at the time) if I could borrow her guitar. I sang the song, it was well received, and afterwards a photographer came over to me and said he had a good shot of me that he was going to send me, and also suggesting that I should forget about the social protest songs and concentrate on songs like this that contained a more personal message. Which, of course, is what I did. That photograph, which I lost to my never-ending regret, was the last good photo ever taken of me. 

Leaving With The River

 

Once by a river a small boy did stroll

His feet wore the muddy silt like shoes

He sang songs of promise to the great river’s roll

And listened to the river’s soothing blues

 

But the sea glistened briefly

Beyond the distant bends

Where the river left its bank

To go rolling without end

And the boy whispered his only thought

To his only friend

I’m leaving with you, river, in the morning

 

He fashioned him a boat of the hickory and the oak

And set it to the river by the bay

And from the lanky birchbark he cut his craft a cloak

To shed the windy gusts of surf and spray

 

But the currents of the river

That traveled far below

Resented this intruder

Who broke the water’s flow

And his words they echoed briefly

As he tottered to and fro

I’m leaving with you, river, in the morning

 

He climbed to the top and he slid to the depths

The boat split and splintered in his hand

He had sailed to the end of a young boy’s stream

To drown in the ocean of a man

 

Now the water lies unbroken

In the sunset’s striking reds

The boughs that he once sailed upon

Now float over his head

As a brook still trickles hopefully

Into the river bed

For it’s leaving with the river in the morning.