Friday Night Paddling (almost a poem)

Friday Night Paddling

It was a long paddle from the shore to Top Island
and then back out through the marina
under the bridge to the blinker buoy, without stopping
And then back to Marshall’s beach for some lessons in technique.
The sun was headed toward Aetearoa.

My spirit brought me here to this seat
In the canoe with five other spirits.
There are six paths of arrival and departure for this
Canoe, for this night. Though for a few hours we move
Together, through Maunalua Bay
Through the ending of another day.

Each practice is a test of will, of form, of finding
And keeping to the center, no matter the tides,
Winds, the shifting spirits or collective mood in the canoe.
The water is always different, as is the moon in relationship
To the water, and the cast of day as it heads toward night is
Another one of those transition points that mark change.

We reach and dig in with each stroke
Seeking perfection. And perfection must come even with
Exhaustion and the shiver of muscle in coherence with the flow
Of the ocean and the rhythm of the canoe as we paddle together.
And here’s the problem of thinking about it rather than being,
Writing about it rather than knowing without words
Or beyond words, beyond the canoe, beyond the water,
Beyond the smallness of my essential chaos.
This is the frustration of the matter.

The sun keeps traveling and does not stop in the journey
To doubt or to question.
And what a magnificent journey from the edge of eternity
To Hawai'i, to Aetearoa.

This is true about practicing saxophone, or practicing singing
Or the practice of being a human in these times
Or the practice of being while not-being.

And when we were done,
I headed back through Friday night traffic of good times
I saw the sliver of moon, which is a silver of memory.
It was the crack of bright in the middle of a nothing of cars, dark and traffic lights.
I admit I am breaking down, shivering to the other side.
Each thought blossoms and sends out shoots.
Each word echoes.
It’s overwhelming.

I’m nobody, who are you?
Said the poet who has been here but not, here.

So I break it down.
To waves, to the stroke of a paddle, to a breath, to a note
Held out for depth, quality and resonance
Which is actually a cry
A hunch toward knowing

c Joy Harjo April 29, 2006 Honolulu

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