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For The River Riders.

For The River Riders

"See how she spins! The grace is there,
But strain as well is plain to see.
Degas loved the two together.
Beauty joined to energy."
Richard Wilbur, "Museum Piece"

From the downtown bridges
I lean to see the James River riders in their rafts
and kayaks take the rapids--
how they gather the craft under them,
the way the rider of a horse will before a jump,
then drive it at some channel in the rocks,
where knuckles of wilder water
whiten into uppercuts, so they might fly--
but less to fly than to steer into flight's turbulence,
for the shuttled glee of its pounding.
See how they strain! some sucked under, then spun right again--
or if grace fails them utterly, then not--
but either way, what grace they'll manage
won't be much: the beauty
is in the battle of their energies--as it's joined upon
this blue, white field--riding the windings and the wildness.

I brought my father to these rapids, once--
three decades before his death--oh, at almost my age now.
He had loved to kayak, as a younger man--
his eyes brightened when we reached them--
but since I have no boat, being more
a watcher than a thrill-seeker myself, he could only
wade into a cleft of rocks and sprawl there,
as if it were a whirlpool bath--
until the cradling current pried him loose
and dragged him down in under.
Thirty yards it swept him--
yet he came up whole, guffawing through his sputters.
Vestless, contused, he forbore, reluctantly, to try the ride again.

I was never a disappointment to him, I think, but in this:
that at no sport he'd ever played was I as good as him;
that at none was I as reckless, as in love
with the wild brawl of it--favoring, rather, the grace--
yet admiring the rollick, mostly; to lean, that is, and watch.

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Author:Kannemeyer, Derek
Publication:Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature
Article Type:Poem
Date:Mar 22, 2017
Previous Article:Don't Look at Me.

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