by Clarissa Hyde

Poughkeepsie is a man in a lawn chair
     with a cigarette hanging from his lips.
          The grayness that bleeds there bleeds
               from the river and her daughter, the fog. Our nine bodies
          wake under early-morning starlight.
     They wear the dawn like a disguise and point
out which constellations they know.
     Our nine exhausted bodies wake before the sun.
          Our movements are tangled. We are a school
               of nine lanky, graceless fish. The Sawbuck wavers
          atop our shoulders, the shoulders we tell ourselves
     are strong. Even through the film of darkness
the fog atop her mother, the river,
     lies imminent, lies in wait. She collects the silences
          of the morning like silver coins between feathery fingers.
               We defend ourselves with the beat of our feet against gravel.
          The march of our legs, the lock of the oars, the singular push
     against the dock begins the rhythm. Not like a drumbeat,
but something that whispers
     against the banks and the surfaces of our own skin.
          We are children here. We build the rhythm still.
               From within the belly of the fog, the cries of shipwrecked
          scullers leak from a tear in her skin. We are blind
     and yet we can feel that our eyes are still open.
From the safety of The Sawbuck we know
     we have never been so still, our souls never so silent.
          We hold nothing in our hands but our hands,
               nothing in our heads, nothing at all. Nothing in our hearts,
          but this rhythm and the dimming starlight, a sign of our sun.
     We built the rhythm with oarlocks
and wrenches, drops of sweat dripping
     into the shell. We kept it with us
          even when we were banished from the river,
               even when forced home to our salty lakes and our own bodies of water.
          We keep the grayness and our rhythm with us always.
     We will tuck it atop our shoulder blades
when we move to the city and to the suburbs,
     when we wear things borrowed and blue,
          when we find ourselves collapsed against bodegas,
               holding scalpels, and crying for our mothers, at the helms
          of our own boats. And in the beat of the streets
     atop the train tracks and the sidewalks, we will tap out the rhythm
in the stokes of our footsteps.
     We will remember altogether spoons and soldiers
          cast in stars and our friend herself: the fog.
               When the sun peeks not into the Hudson but through curtains
          cutting into our cheekbones
     like a slice of abalone or Asian pear,
we will remember that this
     is the sun that also rises, and once again we will find
          ourselves rising altogether before it,
               waiting for the call of our coxswain, waiting
          for the call that leads us back home to our river
and then back out to sea. 


back to University & College Poetry Prizes