Alright, sir, for you, I am breaking my rule of not posting my poems online. Well, ok, it’s also fun to get some feedback, so I hope you enjoy this. The poem is printed just below the video.
A Response to Billy Collins
Kayaking on the Susquehanna,
now that’s something I’m quite likely to do,
in July or any month, as long as there’s no ice.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a painting
of someone kayaking on the Susquehanna,
or any other stream or river in Pennsylvania.
My own body feels it now, the ache, the pull
of muscles as I row this pushing, pumping
rhythm, the meter of my stroke a little off–
two beats to port for each one
at starboard. This little sit-on-top is made
for ocean waves, not upstream track.
But it’s all the kayak I have, so I row
on the Susquehanna, my backyard fountain.
This far north of Harrisburg where west
meets main, the water’s deep, at least
when the dam is up. It’s inflatable, you know,
like the ego of poets who don’t know
of boats and bats swooping past,
fishing poles, and calloused hands,
curved paddles that dip and scoop
and drip the Susquehanna into your lap.
It’s dusk; two ducks, then a loon flap past,
wings nearly tip the waves. I tire and drift
the way we poets do when we’ve pushed
the pen too hard, and need to let the stream
find us again, take us where it will.
The slow current spins me facing downstream
toward a low waxing moon, and even the rise
of countless mayflies doesn’t hide the glow
of pink sky above a jumbled bank of trees.
I imagine, as I glide toward docking,
a man in a museum, mind adrift,
gazing at a picture of a stranger
kayaking on the Susquehanna.
Somehow he senses something missed,
and he thinks to write of his regret,
fleeting as a Pennsylvania rabbit,
remorse for a euphoria he’ll never know–
shoulders sore, a setting sun,
the moon and first few stars over slow
roving water. Up ahead a bass jumps
for the day’s last mayfly. From far away
I feel his gaze, rub my neck as I clamber
onto the dock, and sigh a little for his loss.