The opening poem of my book, Memories of When We Were Birds, is, like many of the poems in the collection, about people and their connections to the natural world. “Sternwheeler”, which appeared at voxpoetica in June 2009, is more about people than the world around them, as in the first stanza, the scene narrows its focus on our young couple. In the second stanza, we join them at the rail of the ship and look into the transfixing water, which in the last stanza becomes a metaphor for the sensation of awareness in the moment and simultaneously experiencing the disorienting fluidity of time, past, present, future.
So you mostly walk the deck
and watch the shoreline slip away,
your world shrinking down to the girl,
the boat and the enveloping dark.
You hang out over the stern railing
above the paddlewheel that mows
through muddy green meadows of river
and churns out frothy haystacks,
dark hills of just-lived moments
receding one by one into night.
You hold hands like there’s no letting go,
like you won’t slip into the churning.