The rumbling, though far in the distance, triggers
a quickening of my heart and I grip the paddle,
remembering when things did not go well,
when I was deceived by the glassy surface of the water
concealing the perils beneath the swift-flowing river;
when I smashed into the boulders, was thrown
into the roaring rapids, swallowed by haystacks
and sent tumbling downstream in the raging waters.
When it comes to love of any kind,
experience matters and memories float like a leaf alongside,
eroding confidence. One can paddle faster than the current,
or slower, but allowing the river control ensures defeat.
These days I dig the blade hard into the water behind me.
There have been times I opted to paddle
the safe waters of an inland lake, reveling
in the stillness as I lazily searched for a sandhill crane,
the checker-board back of a loon, a tundra swan.
But most of the time it is the river that lures me,
and I have eyes only for the fast-flowing waters
and the image of you downstream,
looking for pebbles to polish.
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