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Dwyer Leahy Vessey

When you canoe
you steer from the stern.
At the bow you stroke deep - dip, release
even change sides to balance.
At the stern you must guide
over water; know strokes to change direction
ease around shadowed rocks,
and always return the canoe
to its true course.
Itís harder in the stern
directing from behind.
The craft responds slowly at times and yet
sometimes shoots ahead almost
overtaking its own reflection.
Iíve tried steering my canoe. I strain and sweat
and fight the boat to go
where I want to go.
Instead, it always returns
to its true course, itís only course.
No matter the technique, the stroke
I chose, I cannot
steer from the stern.
Yet at the bow, my labors bring
a sureness of movement
a glide
across water so fine and so still
that I am flying.
My efforts belong at the bow.
Here, my sweat surges my craft onward
here, my straining powers me away from dangerous currents
here, I am at peace.
Knowing you
are steering from the stern.

August 2005

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