Kayak on the quarry: will you hug the shore, push straight across,
waver or dawdle? No paths on the water. Almost November,
and the poison ivy is still green. The soft trap of sky closes
all around. An artful little spray of leaves near the shore,
as though Martha Stewart were sitting in for God.
Give up all that father stuff, said Gordon, look where it’s got us.
And the warrior—even worse. The kayakers lift and dip
their paddles, orange signals: this way for us. So much is offered,
so much goes begging, and still what we need evades us, or hides
in plain sight. On the water, every way might be the right way.
God might be the father and the warrior and the lost leaves,
the water and the bleached trunk, motion and stone,
lush twists of cloud and barking dog and wind,
star upon star alert and invisible in every direction,
low moan in the blood, circle and drift in the bright cells,
shadowy hum and whir of electrons, fizz and buzz and shush
too small to name. No end, no opening, no tribe, no answer.
Only this: kayak and paddlers, lift and dip,
breath and muscle above the chill water, below the soft sky.
for Gordon Kaufman
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.