“River Run Dry” by Emma Han

Poetry Pause celebrates the winners of the 2024 Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Prize for young writers! Read “River Run Dry” by Emma Han, second place winner of the junior category.

River Run Dry

By Emma Han

Lovers love their beloved the way an ocean surges and churns. The way the tall waves crash against rocks, and the way the salty water returns to the ocean, drip by drip.


I am loved quietly.

I am loved in the back of my lover’s mind.

I am loved the way a broken stream trickles down the mountain, slow and sure.

I am loved in that way, because no one needs to think about small rivers. They don’t need to be taken care of. They just follow the slope of the mountain.

They are loved, of course. But not uniquely.

Ask: Do you like rivers? Well, who wouldn’t? What’s not to like? Yes, people would answer. I like rivers. They give us fresh water.

But who notices a river’s hospitality toward fish and beavers and frogs and turtles? Who thinks about the river’s charity that feeds the lakes and seas? Who takes the time to feel the smooth current, or listen to its song?

I am a river.

Because to be needed without desire is everything I’ve ever been. And to be loved for practicality rather than beauty is to not be loved at all.

I am loved, yes, but never out of fondness.

Copyright © Emma Han

Emma Han is a grade 9 student. Emma’s poem “River Run Dry” won second place in the junior category of the 2024 Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Prize.

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