19 December 2022

By Philip Kuepper

They saw to it
they always had a choice.
Oars or paddles, always,
leaned against the barn,
the river running next the farm,
a tease to lure them from their work.
Hands are everything.
They maneuver the wheel of the tractor.
They sheer the sheep.
They harvest the garden.
(Harvesting lettuce
is like shaking hands,
so hand-shaped the leaves,
the hands of the Green Man?)
Hands hold the oars,
hold the paddles.
Two thousand years before this year
Native Americans were already paddling
dugouts along the same river,
though not the same water.
The river remains,
but never the water,
never the ever-changing body of water,
its waves, hand-over-hand,
climbing south down the shifting
course, oars steer,
and paddles;
hands steering water
they never do get a grip on.

(20 November 2022)

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