Sitting with elders, watching as they
row softly toward the far shore, as they
relax into the final strokes
and glide into that last landing;
that’s been my life of late.
It comes to all of us, or should
come to all of us who last long enough
to see our elders fade from our reach.
Too many do not live to see this.
Too many never see a quiet passage.
Too many do not see the shore coming
from far away; too many reach it
violently, faster than they wanted,
faster than anyone wants.
I’m not close to that shore myself
but I now and then catch a glimpse —
a break in the clouds above the horizon,
a scent in the ocean I struggle against
that makes me think of shifting
toward rest and letting go —
and then I shrug and put my back
into the oars again,
sure that I’ll get there, of course,
as we all will but certain as well
of all the strain still ahead of me
before I can lay off the work and say
it’s time for me to relax, time to let the tide
pull me in to that far shore.
These days it feels that we are all rowing,
harder than ever, toward a much rougher shore.
There are times I envy the elders
who are gliding to the light in some peace.
I sit and watch them go
and dream myself of such a passage.
I do not want to see the final days
we seem to be approaching — though I know
all finality is temporary, that beyond it
there is always a beginning, always
something to look for; hope is a survivor’s
oar, a sweet ache in a rower’s shoulder.
I sit by bedsides, watching elders fade from view.
I turn back to my own rowing. I weep, and then I hope.