canoe poems, free verse

(For them as likes their words less fettered)


I was wind

Rippling water

To the shore

I was the budding leaf

New this year

To the lake to the trail

I was the sun

Yellow canoe traversing the lake

East to west

I was a day in June: in my canoe

I was a day in June



Life is full of rocks,
And paddling for truth, I
For I have loved water more
Than hard-packed road
And every river takes
Me closer to a destination
I cannot name

Bays more than parking lots
And rivers more than trees

There is not in this world a thing
More nearly alive than water

The river is a wind
Thick and full of bassbirds

Cruising slowly
In this atmosphere
I am a dark cloud
To the fish

Not because I promised myself
Last winter, kicking snow off the car

Not because I told myself I would
When summer's heat was gone

Not because of what I almost told
My boss's boss on Tuesday

Or because the veranda needs shingles
And the garden should be turned over soon

Maybe because the prices of apples
Is less than the round of donuts
And the sound of small birds
Is soft, like melted copper drops

Maybe because I'm out here on the lake, chasing bass
Only because the canoe was blue
This September day is warm, the tackle-box brown
And the aspens a darling shade of yellow.

Rain at dawning. Warm breakfast, but I
ended up at the window, gray-feeling.

At nine the clouds headed for Quebec
leaving stunning blue on the world's ceiling.

Got the canoe on the car, feet soaked with dew, and
on the water by ten-thirty, making paddle-whirlpools,
Octobering my Canadian soul. I tell you, I went
down the lake for no particular reason.
Portaged just to step on crackling orange leaves
or maybe just to ruffle a grouse.

I think
eternity could start this way. I wouldn't
mind. I wouldn't mind at all.


With but one portage to go, he said
Let’s go up the creek instead.
You gotta be kidding....

We stomped on trout and sank in muck
We pushed logs, pulled logs, and straddled logs
The canoe went over, under and around logs
We sank, swam, sloshed, and cursed
Before we paddled away

But we saved a portage

Brainless bozo! I wonder
If we can plan another trip.


"Great day for canoeing", they mock
The snow scudding past the factory windows and
The thermometer into double negatives

But I’ve canoed more rivers in February than
I ever got to in summer.

While the company’s paying me by the hour
While others poke at this week’s deadlines
I’m lining a canoe down Otter Creek, in my mind
I’m drifting downwind on Sparkler Lake

I’m two hours to campsite
Three hours to campfire
Only a thin hull from the depths
Only a glass daydream from the truth


It was too cold to be on the water
The shores of winter groaned at the edges of the province
The sky was the arctic’s lesser brother
Out to conquer souther lands
Much too cold to be on the water

What the hell, I thought, that’s what a canoe
Is for
To carry us to the edges of cold fish and air
To the edges of drown and sing

And in the long run, cold white hunts us all
Life was always an edge of sorts
Our unwilling temporary challenge to cold white

It was too cold not to be on the water


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