Kayak trip

Don’t paddle! you say,
as we bump oars,
water splashing over us.
So I watch your strokes more closely,
try to match your rhythm with my own.
Sometimes, I sit still while you
fight the current—
longing to help, knowing I can’t,
I try to look instead
at the kelp beds we travel,
hunting for sea otters.
Sometimes I just can’t help myself
and stick the paddle in quietly,
like a rudder,
to try to get us
where I think you want to go.
It’s hard work
being your passenger,
learning to sit quietly,
watching you make your way
with sure, silent strokes,
always ahead of me,
facing your own horizon.
For me, that’s the hardest way
to paddle—
for you, the surest way
to glide ahead.

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