Archaeology: THE NEW RIVER

While searching through all my old writing (hidden around my room in five beat-up folders, three fat yellow envelopes, four over-flowing binders, and a USB drive that looks like a frog in a top hat) for last week’s posts, I found one thin stack of poems.

It’s a thin stack, because I don’t particularly understand poetry, so I’m not overly fond of it either. Blame it on the fact that I don’t hear meter easily. Blame it on my strange hold out on engaging emotionally with short pieces. Blame it on the fact that I’m secretly dead inside.

But, occasionally, a professor made me write one. I saved a few, not because they were great, but because I liked the ideas enough to believe I might come back to them. In one lifetime or another.

I like this one because:

It’s a good attempt to describe why my university sent every student on a white-water rafting trip down the New River as part of their first year orientation. At the time that I wrote it, it was an experience every student had, like the chicken pox, but more exciting and less itchy.

This year, my little sister started at my university, and I found out that the rafting trip doesn’t happen anymore. Judging by how much that stunned me, revising this poem should probably be a little higher on my list.


It is hard to remember,
to examine, to calculate, to extrapolate
the length of this river,
the number of waves we navigate
or the oar-strokes we still need
to pull ourselves from bank to bank.
It is hard to remember
that we pull ourselves nowhere,
choose no path of our own but
are carried by the veer of the water,
drawn repeatedly into hydraulic whorls,
the fingerprints of this creature
and told, “Don’t stand. Follow
the water,” when we feel
that we are drowning.
We were told, “this is a river”
and we knew it, standing
on concrete shores with our toes
over the edge. But dragging
paddles through deep, white foam
with adrenaline jerking inside
our chests, it is hard to remember
what that means.


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