Duende in Rowing

by Sarah C. Beckmann
“It’s a great art, is rowing. It’s the finest art there is…And when you’re rowing well, why it’s nearing perfection. And when you near perfection, you’re touching the Divine.”
—George Yeoman Pocock (The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown) 
We rowers have peculiar rituals. Like running
stairs indoors, inhaling
stale air and dust. Like sweating 
in a tank room, all concrete walls and low ceiling,
mirrors and machines. Our suffering, artificial.
While we labor in these confines, we pray
in wintertime for blue skies, flat water. 
For the sun.  
We see in our minds that pavement path 
that slopes, downward, to the river. 
On one shoulder, our dark craft, we make
our morning pilgrimage: salute the waning moon,
the dawn.
                 First light
                 ricochets off water; the fragments 
                 shower our foggy faces. It’s the thing
                 that fully wakes us, makes
                 the naiad blood in any girl
On land, we abandon our bodies,
discard our separate shells in exchange
for a new vessel. The moment the last foot
leaves the dock, an unearthly link 
completes itself.
                 On water, our souls surrender,
                 affix to that greater whole,
                 that oneness—at the risk
                 of becoming gods ourselves!—we 
                 glide through the waves, our togetherness
                 the only thing that anchors us.