A Captain’s Tale

I awoke this morning
pedaling madly — not a bicycle,
but a small aluminum boat
outfitted with sprocket and chain.

We were carrying three passengers:
my oldest and youngest sons
and a neighbor-friend of theirs,
a sixteen-year-old boy
we have known all his life.

I was seated in the middle
of the craft, with the boys behind.
We were enjoying a placid stretch of river
when we were suddenly sent down
a steep, dry, concrete ramp about
fifty feet wide and a hundred feet long.

There was a terrible scraping noise
as the boat rode its rib over
the pitted gray slab. Then, splash! —
we entered the water again.

The current in this new stretch of river
was hostile, swift, menacing.
More than that: in an act of defiance,
the river had reversed its course.
The surging water had nowhere to go.
It boiled, foamed against the ramp.
It took all my strength pedaling upstream
to free us, and then to keep us
from being swept back.

The tiny bow rose and fell.
We had gained several yards when it
smacked the surface one last time, settled,
and the boat . . . began to fill with water.

The boys were silent. I redoubled my effort.
Soon, the boat was almost completely submerged.
And yet I knew — understood, believed —
we wouldn’t sink, as long as I continued to pedal.

I was right. The boys are safe now.
But I am pedaling still. Pedaling . . . pedaling . . .

July 18, 2005

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Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

Signed copies available

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