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Kayaking on the Charles

I don't really like the ferries that make the water a scary vortex,
or the blurry white sun that blinds me, or the adorable small families
of distressed ducklings that swim in a panic when a speedboat cuts
through, spewing a miasma into the river, but I love the Longfellow
Bridge's towers that resemble the silver salt and pepper canisters
on my kitchen table. They belonged to Mother. The Department
of Conservation is restoring the bridge masonry now. Paddling under
its big arches, I feel weary, as memory floats up, ignited by cigarette
butts thrown down by steelworkers. I want to paddle away, too.
Flies are investigating my bare calves, and when I slap them hard
I realize they are so happy. I'm their amusement. Sometimes
memories involve someone I loved. A rope chafes a cleat.
I want my life to be post-pas de deux now. Lord, look at me,
hatless, with naked torso, at sixty, paddling alone upriver.

Henri Cole

The Paris Review

Winter 2017

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