|Nanook's River Poetry|
|The Paddle Came into my Hands|
The paddle came into my hands
unbidden and unexpected.
A weather-beaten stick of ash
another might have rejected.
Paul found it on the Miramichi
languishing in a bogan.
It was a curiosity,
I didn't think it would go again.
Who knows how long it bobbed unseen
hidden in the lonely thicket.
The summers, winters it had been
since human hand had fondly gripped it.
The sun had burned off all the varnish
on the side where it had caught her.
There was not the slightest tarnish
on the side stayed under water.
I hefted it and held it high.
It was lighter than I'd hoped.
When I raised it to my eye,
I saw it wasn't one bit warped.
One side shiny, one side worn,
the paddle was reversible.
In my hands it was reborn,
Two coats of shellac and some t.l.c.
made it more than acceptable.
It came on every trip with me,
we were all but inseparable.
Who can count the long sweet strokes we made,
the portage trails we toted and trudged?
Who can name the rapids where we played,
who knows the rocks we reached out and touched?
Till that fateful, fitful day
we were on the Nashwaak.
I let my boat at rope's end sway
to ease it round a big rock.
I misjudged the rapid's turn.
On the rock my boat was bent.
The paddle slipped out of the stern,
and into Narrows Gorge it went.
By the time I got my boat unhitched,
the sacred shaft had passed from sight.
I was angry, fit to be switched,
my paddle was gone, had taken flight.
Maybe 'twas meant to be that way.
My paddle could not serve just one.
It had to leave, it could not stay.
We'd had our seasons in the sun.*
So if a paddle you should see
floating down a woodland brook,
enjoy and use it lovingly.
It once belonged to old Nanook.
Reach out and touch a rock
*Thank you, Terry Jacks.
Hear Nanook recite this poem.
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