The Mantra Of Rowing


The Mantra of Rowing

Overnight, the lake froze.
Wind had whipped, whistling,
In from the north.
A curtain of arctic air had fallen
After autumn’s last act,
An anti-climax of color,
To which the maple had given
Tepid applause,
The pine, a standing “o”!

The rower walked the hard earth
To the lake. Immediately his memory
Of the summer just past
Began to act out
His morning row. He would row
As far as the tall dead pine
That stood on the spit
Jutting out into the lake.
Reaching it he would turn,

Row back to where he stood, now,
Remembering, and row, again,
Out to the dead pine. He would row
Until he felt every muscle
In his body flex, then, rest
And ponder the pine,
The pine, in death, become
A landmark, a status,
During its lifetime, it had never known,

The dead pine the rower’s guide
On which he had come to depend.
To row beyond the pine meant
Getting burned-out,
His row one of exhaustion,
Not one of accomplishment.
Beyond the pine was a punishment,
Not a work-out.
Then his body would rebel,

Shut down, teach him
A lesson in respect,
A lesson he needed
Only learn once.
The memory of that one time
Haunted him. He had fallen,
Gasping, on the shore, a fish, caught,
And dragged from the water.
He rowed the memory of it, like a mantra.

Philip Kuepper
(October 2011)

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