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Friday, October 15, 2004
 
6:30 Tiger
Waking to the borrowed cell-phone alarm, I
know we must collect our rafting-wet clothes,
gather ourselves,
shuffle out to the car.

There is no encouragement you can shout
to someone flying overboard.
There is no time.
From airborne
to the cold slap of water
to 30 feet downstream---
hiking boots heavy with the river’s bitter bacteria---
the heart doesn’t beat once.

I struggle to touch the bottom of the rain-swollen river,
struggle to bring my feet up and forward
to guide myself down the rapids,
all the while thinking,
“This is it. This is how it ends.”

This sudden morning, I’m rinsed clean---
bedewed, adrift in a haze of cottonmouth
and contentment.
From a listing, eddy-trapped raft, I’m
lifted, pitched, launched,
but not unpiloted, not air-drowned
and grasping for the rope bag,

but home-bound,
seat-belted---

on a highway from me to myself.

---------------

6:30 a.m. was the time we woke up to leave the rented cabin in Tiger (a backwoods town in extreme Northeastern Georgia). This poem was revised so many times over the course of a year, it’s not even funny. The back-story is (mostly) here. The poem leaves out the part where I pulled Mr. ADD off the raft with me, but hints at me being in a state of PTSD for the rest of that day (until I started drinking and passing a “funny” cigarette by the bonfire).