A Little Pat-etry

Don’t Worry. We’ll Find Each Other’s Rhythms

I don’t know how to make a J with a flat, straight paddle.

No matter how I might struggle and wish, the paddle will

Never curl and give me a tail that will make it look like a J.

Or at least make me feel like I have made a J-stroke.

But today, we sat one in front of the other, me leading,

You guiding. Me calling out directions. You giving suggestions.

I peeled the water away and felt it make little whirlpools against

My paddle.

I sat like a lump as you humped the boat over rotten, submerged logs.

I pointed out turtles, my voice rising in childish delight until

They leapt off their logs for fear of this squeaking, long-bodied


I constantly felt like I was messing up:

I talk too much.

I talk too loudly.

I don’t call out obstructions soon enough.

I don’t paddle on the right side or the left side.

I paddle too strongly.

I paddle too passively.

I don’t know what the hell I’m doing other than slipping my

Paddle into the water and pushing it backward until

My hand naturally twists and the paddle is parallel to the boat

Until I lift it gently from the water, swing it forward,

Let water droplets rain back into the creek,

And repeat everything.

Even the constant echoing of the neuroses which are screaming demons in my head.

Eventually, we have gone though enough bends,

Passed over enough underwater obstacles

Which make the canoe creak and groan,

Ducked under enough tree branches

That our rhythms are in perfect counterpoint to each other.

I don’t care about J-strokes or K-strokes or any other letters or numbers

That define my paddling perfection.

I don’t care anymore about paddling on the right or the left.

I am completely enamored with the fish darting under our boat,

The tart, slightly under-ripe blackberries we stripped from the bush,

The great blue heron that leap frogs away from us.

In one cove, filled with water lilies and purple water flowers that

Are shaped like upside down ice-cream cones, we watch

Dirt plumes following the turtles swim-scurrying away from us.

We have invaded their privacy, imposed ourselves into their paradise.

And though we somewhat regret disturbing this sanctuary,

Watching yet another heron hunting for fish absorbed our attention

And we forgot the blooming sedimentary contrails blossoming around us.

With careful strokes, we turn, leave behind the heron curled

And silent as it stalks the fish.

We leave behind a white-ghost turtle that briefly surfaces to observe us.

And as we gently swing around another corner,

You whisper, “Deer!”

Fifteen feet away from the bank, curled on her side,

A doe nests under a copse of trees.

Her ears forwards, she watches us, her body almost perfectly still

To avoid our detection even though we stare back at her.

We lift our paddles out of the water, rest them across the boat’s

Empty cocoon husk, and just quietly look at the doe,

Whisper our wondering question if she has a fawn.

Her ears flicker, you lightly call out a reassurance to her, a

Statement of peace, and together we dunk our paddles back into the water,

Pull against the gravity of the creek,

And quietly float away.

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