Boativation (Kayak Poem #22)
Broen and I catch Mother Weather napping,
push off into her belly, glide on glass
into the York River. Glittering current requires
the paddle just as rutter. We find a duckblind
and climb in. Plywood benches hidden
by vertical branches. Floor of fishbones.
Osprey spy from above 60-foot trawlers
the Nancy D, the Alice B and Blue Alaska.
We land next to Ludwig the lost rowboat.
No one here but birds, Green Point beach juts into the bay.
To each his own boat. To each her own belief
in curious turtles and fish flashing in shallows.
To all saltwater eyes and seeing beneath
the surface the treasure of small effort.
During the three-mile paddle to Cedar Island, Doug tells Moe and me about the world’s smallest carnival: two blocks of downtown Wachapreague: a ferris tire and a twisting spider, cotton candy and clam fritters, beer and bluegrass, golf carts and open only seven to nine p.m. for a couple days before July Fourth. Moe fills his mug with an IPA. I chug sunblock and bug spray. We row through the largest marsh I’ve ever seen: square miles of tall grass, darting turtles, jumping fish and diving birds all in the flow of salty, muddy current. We ride the tide and fight the wind until we reach the beach, pull boats up, breathe and admire the audacity of undeveloped solitude. No roads reach here, no motels or markets or carnivals. There’s an old Coast Guard cabin, can still see the power poles snapped by a hurricane and never reconnected. We rest for a second and walk north through shorebreak and shelves of shells. Doug shares his strategy: don’t carry conchs in backpacks but stick their points in the sand and collect them on the way back. Too many to consider, plus eight-inch clams, spiral whelks, bones and stones, breakers bring more with every wave. We weave among shell meadows and blue pools, buoys and crab pots. I pull a thick bone from the surf. I picture prehistoric Earth. We turn back after a mile and a half, clearly see the trail of conchs pointing skyward all the way back to the kayaks. Our packs overflow with beach debris. We break for lunch. Moe cleans his mug with sea water and refills. Doug plans to crown his picket fence with shells. Tide turned, wind mostly with us, we float back to the launch with sunburn and barking shoulders, all forms of pain repressed by awe and appreciation and two drops of perspective: the fortune of friendships and the value of vast emptiness left alone. When I peer across endless sea and sand, I know I am a lucky nothing. With three boats affixed to Moe’s Lexus, we pass the carnival capsule on the way back to Doug’s, momentarily part of the parade: one fire truck in bunting, Miss Oyster atop waving madly.
DL Pravda tries to keep it together either by jamming distorted reverb juice in his ears or by driving to the country and disappearing into the woodsfarm dimension. Recent work appears in Bookends Review, The Meadow, Poetry Quarterly, Rockvale Review and South 85. The winner of the 2019 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize for his book, Normal They Napalm the Cottonfields, Pravda teaches at Norfolk State University.
Image: APK, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons