Rowboat Song

Brass oarlocks on wax-print fabric

Rowboat Song

My song is for the rowboat hauled out for winter, 
listing in a sea of leaves.  I love her lines,  
the graceful beauty of her usefulness.  But even more 
I love the way she carries the music  
of my father, his summertime humming  
and the ringing of brass oarlocks dangling from his hand 
as we walked the tangled path pungent with huckleberry 
and sweet fern in August heat. 

                                                           Our syncopated footsteps
on the wooden runway, the slight lift and sway of the float 
beneath us, slap-slap of running line on water  
bringing the dinghy in.  My father’s slender fingers  
worked the line, hand over hand, removing strands of eelgrass 
and slimy mermaid’s hair, green, and matted. 

                                                                                      And then 
his easy rowing, skilled feathering of oars, their rhythmic turning 
in the locks, a two-part pulse of leather and wood against brass: 
back and forward, back and forward.  Between strokes, 
from the oar tips a whispered staccato drips in tiny 
running steps across the water’s surface. 

Did we speak?  Maybe a little.  Mostly in silence we’d do 
what was needed—unstop the sails and hoist them,  
let go the mooring line, back the jib to bring the bow 
around, and with sails filling slip gently out the harbor. 

Strange–I remember always the setting out 
rarely the homecoming, always a new beginning, 
always another chance. 

 

 

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