Tag Archives: riffle


The brook that licks the roots of the syntax trees growing on the monadnock in the heart of word country is a variable stream. As it reaches the plain, it meanders, makes oxbows, in some places fills pools – here limpid, there turbid – but in others really books it, like the fluvial version of a page-turner. Sit with me here by this riffle and reflect on it.

Riffle? Can you reflect on a riffle, with its turbulence from shallow passage over rough bed? How much reflection could you get from a riffle through a book, the pages flicking by like a deck of cards? Surely your images would be shuffled, ruffled, filleted perhaps, less careful than a raffle? Indeed, the light laughing on the rippling surface of a riffle may leave you feeling unfulfilled, if not rueful, in its fitful flickering.

But it is not so awful: all is reflected, and there is something to be said for a new order. Just as the surface affects a photographic afflatus, below it there is a sedimental journey taking place: the rapidity and turbulence and helicoidal flows of the waters in this short stretch of stream achieve velocities sufficient for erosion and transport of small particles, to be precipitated when the aquatic traffic slows, in fulfillment of the Hjulström curve.

This is a way the language changes: bits are picked up from here and there and left in another place. We have rifle, we have ripple, we have ruffle; we find reflections of each in this word, like flecks of gold left in the riffle of a sluice. Riffle the cards and see what flips up: how mixed, and of what value? Is riffle, with its uncertain source, glittering bits of these words like water in rough ridged patterns (shaped as iffl), sufficiently artful?

Some seek always the calm, deep, still waters. But between pools you must have riffles, lifting, refreshing, snaffling particles in little scuffles, breaking the light. Shallow, fast, but not effortful; although deep pools have gravitas, it is simple gravity that effects this flow to refill the flatter floods. But it is not mere filler: much goes on. The bed this brook flows on is rough here, stirring. And above, leaves fall from the syntax trees, flutter, flop, float, flipping over the riffle: the pages of this brook.