My Canoe

I caught an eddy in the only place I could stop
It was hell getting down here and now this drop
Ten miles of madness on a wildwater stream
I was tired and sore, this was no paddler’s dream
I’d read the guide, but this couldn’t be
“A challenging stretch, much beauty to see”
And now thirty feet above a jagged death
I prayed aloud with a gasping breath
My heart pounded loudly against my chest
If I make it through this, I’ll walk the rest
With cliffs straight up, I had no choice
I’m frozen in fear, I’d lost my voice
But shouted anyway and shook my fist
I can’t die here, wouldn’t I be missed
Back to reality and the mess I’m in
What led me to this, where do I begin
To tell the tale of facing my fears
Overcoming sadness and stopping the tears
From a lonely life without a mate
And now here I am to meet my fate
The book said something about a take out place
But I stroked down at a hectic pace
Over cascading falls, past massive rock
And somehow missed that miner’s dock
That would lead me out and back to home
Instead I pause above a crashing foam
As I try to figure out what I should do
Just me on this river with my canoe
I tied my boat and climbed up the wall
To get a better look, don’t let me fall
The rock is slick and worn through time
Then into my head pops this silly rhyme
A children’s tale, an engine that could
My fears subsided and I understood
That I alone must face my plight
There is no other, I am the light
Shining so brightly from within my soul
I can clear this drop and that ugly hole!
So I look real close and there’s my chance
A treacherous path, but the only dance
I see to try, what the river will give
It’s that or die and I choose to live
I check once more the route I’ll take
And decide what strokes I’ll have to make
Then I slide back into my little boat
A lump of fear still stuck in my throat
I fight it back, can’t let it show
And one last look at where I gotta go
Some furious strokes and I pick up speed
I’m lined up right, but a miracle I need
As I launch off the wave right before the lip
And catch big air while I tighten my grip
It seemed like hours but only seconds went by
And I realized that my canoe couldn’t fly
Down with a crunch and a great big splash
The boat hit rock and tore a nasty gash
Well I turned over and went for a swim
But back towards the falls, it looked real grim
Then I dropped in to that ravenous maw
I should have died, I’m still in awe
How I managed to live against the odds
And not fall prey to the river gods
I was bouncing off rocks and thrashing around
Thinking if only I could stand on a little dry ground
Sucking foam through teeth to get some air
Would I die alone, did anyone care
Next thing I know there’s something next to me
It’s the prettiest sight I could ever see
There beside me is my faithful boat
I’m so relieved, I know it will float
With two air bags tied into it
In front and back of where I sit
Well I grab hold for all I’m worth
I just might make it back to solid earth
But I have to breathe air from one of the bags
I’m still stuck in this hole, my spirit sags
Then I feel something solid underneath my shoe
I give a shove still holding my canoe
We break free from our watery grave
And I am blessed with a miracle save
True to my word, I paddle no more
And quickly swim to the closest shore
Where a tiny path leads up and out
Then it all sinks in, I begin to pout
For my favorite little boat is all bashed in
I think of the years and where its been
And I fight the tears, knowing what to do
As I turn and leave without my canoe.
John B Caddell 6/28/99

This poem is dedicated to the loving memory
of my favorite little canoe, The Red Boat.
She died on June 27th from massive impact with
a large unmoveable boulder. May she rest in peace.