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.