Crew Practice

MysticRiver11 March 2016

A calm comb of honey-colored light
drew itself through the reeds
in the marsh, and dripped
onto the back of an egret, feeding,
who did not flinch at the touch
of the light.

A mallard quacked.
A dove cooed.
A sparrow lit on
and clung to a reed,
and set it moving
to and fro.
A single suck in the muck told
of a clam.

This was just after first light
had scoured clean
all of the last of night.
The town had yet
to stir.  From some distant place
floated on the air a low whirring,
the motor of a boat moving out
into open water.  I sensed
the sound of the crinkle
of the silver-leaf water as the prow
caused it to bunch,
then break to either side.

A gull scoffed.
A trundle of a boom
meant a heavy truck
was bumping over a steel plate
embedded, somewhere, in asphalt.
One window in one of the white
mansions flashed blindingly
when the sun struck it.

Movement was beginning
to take purchase of the day.
A jogger huffed and gasped past,
his shirt a skin of sweat.
The scuff, scuff, scuff
of his sneakers against the walk
faded until no sound
filled the void.

His jogging coaxed me continue
my walk, east, up the hill
where still spread remnants
of what once had been farms.
A horse is kept boarded on one,
below which runs an estuary
out to the Sound.  As I walked
I imagined the lay of the land
two hundred years earlier.
We are a crowded world now.

By now the town was wakening
to an edgy pulse, a rush to get
to school, to work.  The growls
of buses squealed to stops
and inhaled lines of children,
each one laden with a pack.

The train, bound west, blew through.
A fire engine broke into
a sudden scream worthy
of a drama queen.
I plugged my ears.
I am not a fan of the excessive.

Back at the river—I had come
full circle—I found two crews,
young men, young women, from
one of the high schools,
setting out on their morning rows,
practice rows, readying themselves
for the racing season.
They appeared hieroglyphs
being chiseled on the water,
which stroking I tried to interpret.

Gone the calm comb of light,
now a flood.
The egret had purchased flight.
The reeds stood straight,
stiff as cadets at attention.
And the dove?  The dove had flown,
in search of its mate.

Philip Kuepper
(6 March 2016)

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