Letter to America by David Taylor

One Poem

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November 11, 2016  

We took to the Carmans River,
away from the chatter of road traffic
and the fear and anger of the election.

The day was likely the last warm one for the year.
The breeze blew strong from the northwest
and the dry phragmites rustled enough
to drown the passing train taking
city tourists to Montauk
for Riesling tastings and a filet of doormat fluke.
The hooded mergansers flew in partial Vs to the bay,
as a kingfisher wove east and west across the river,
a stitch here or there for food.

Farther away, deeper still into the wash of river and sea
a blue heron hunted with the patience of reeds.
We paddled lightly,
letting the wind push us farther,
away from what we left.
In the late fall forest,
an osprey nest blotted the top of an oak.

And it seemed…
we were alone…
and… for a time…

Then, a canoe appeared,
a clanky, old aluminum bark,
a young woman paddling in the bow,
a boy nestled into the hull,
the man steering,
his long hair in a broken, tussled topknot,
turning his head
to let the wind take the strands from his face
They waved to us,
and the boy, his head barely above the bulky, orange vest,
smiled as if he knew why we were here.

He waved happily over and over, both hands,
in trust for connection,
              to us, the jolty canoe, the swaying dry reeds, merganser feathers, the rippled
              brackish tide, the blue claw crabs beneath our paddles, the muck of riverbed,
              and beneath it the hard glacial rock, and even the seeps of water down and
              down through bedrock, perhaps even the distant, faint tire noise.

Seeing those small hands,
spraddled fingers open to all,
I knew what I needed to do.

I cannot go to Innisfree,
I told my friend, and she laughed.
We waved goodbye,
the young family drifting south into the bay.
We turned north,
into the wind, the approaching rattle,
tying off the kayaks on the roof rack well
for the road that lay ahead.




David TaylorDavid Taylor is an Assistant Professor in the Sustainability Studies Program at Stony Brook University. He is the author and editor of seven books. His forthcoming book of poetry is titled Palm Up, Palm Down (Wings Press, 2017).

Read poetry by David Taylor previously appearing in Terrain.org.

Header photo of kayak on water by Unsplash, courtesy Pixabay. Photo of David Taylor by David Taylor.

Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.