From Hanami: Canoeing

One of the things that my wife introduced me to when we first started dating was canoeing. Kayaking is a lot more popular and we more often paddled by them than other canoers. My first time out with Becky, was my first time out. We were canoeing in the Charles River and went after work. I forget where I met her, but we drove out and have a nice evening date. One of the things I did that day was to go to the library at lunch and look up some stuff about canoeing, like the J stroke. That day is one of the reasons I so enjoy canoeing now and miss it since we haven’t had a chance to do it since before my son was born. Maybe this summer.

Canoeing has become a recurring activity in my writing. I’ve written a couple of poems about it and it appears in both of my longer prose project drafts. There is something about it, both the reality of being close to the natural world and not. Often places I’ve canoed contains stretches of what looks like untouched land, but bits of the reality we live in, bridges, homes, personal docks, traffic noises, intrude. It’s a lot like visiting Thoreau’s cabin site near Walden Pond. It looks pristine, but you can hear the highway nearby. For many of us, this is the world we live in. You can hearken back, but it’s a world that’s gone and the world that’s here isn’t going to let you forget it.



We never escape the nature
of our situation. The green illusion
is never thick enough to fulfill the dream.
A hotel on the right
and on the left, radio towers
and the hum of the highway.
Riverside homes peek from the trees,
intruding more than other canoers and kayakers
that smile at us as they pass us by.
Heavy branches hang over the river.
A dog takes in an afternoon swim.

I pull the paddle through the water,
dark, murky vegetation lurking
just below the surface.
I pull the paddle just like I read
in the library. You,
in the back, steer the canoe,
and I continue to pull and pull.
I cannot see you, but I can hear you,
talking, steering, guiding us along.
And these, these little things,
these delicate sounds so easily drowned
in the suburban silences,
these are what I listen for all day,
alone in my office,
the tiniest reminder
of a world filled with you.

“Canoeing” is from Hanami, published by Aldrich Press by Kelsay Books. You can find Hanami at This poem was also published in the now defunct Ballard Street Poetry Journal in 2011.

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