Is knowing or believing truer? What hard
questions a man comes to ask himself
on days of plodding tedium. The river pours
brash below us. Would turning back
be prudent–or the act of the coward
I was not born to be?

The air around us won’t stay quiet.
If these are answers, I defy them. All day,
all night, the insects whine like angry arrows
and often ace their targets. Unseen
birds screech Jack-o-lantern calls,
and cracklings along the jungle floor
could be anything, rodents or serpents.
Even now a rustling behind me
suggests slithering.

What is it I know? What is it I believe?
Rondon believes the River of Doubt
joins the Madeira. He’s so convinced
he sent men upstream to welcome us down.

Here’s one thing I believe; one assumed
truth: that this is a test and yet it doesn’t matter
whether I succeed or fail. Either way, the river
will continue. We load the canoes and press on.
It may be that doubt is the one constant. Doubt,
and pushing against doubt.

from a series on Teddy Roosevelt and The River of Doubt


Chris Dahl cups handfuls of murky pond-water hoping to examine another world half-hidden in this one. Her chapbook, Mrs. Dahl in the Season of Cub Scouts won Still Waters Press “Women’s Words” competition. Extensively published, she also serves on the Olympia Poetry Network board and edits their newsletter.