Rowboats

When the first Trident submarinewith nuclear weaponry sufficient to destroy every major city in the northern hemisphereleft its base in Puget Sound, a small number of people in rowboats tried to block its passage. Jeanne Clark, one of the blockaders, explained her action this way: "I did it to make it easier for children to believe in God."

A rowboat's not much to go on, planks
in the shape of a cupped hand, but sufficient
for cozily drifting among the lilies,
the straw hat of the girl giving her smile
the faintest dapple, while he bends slowly
looking backwards at her to find his way,
both of them offering to future memory
this perfect day.

So, too, a fisherman
bends in a labor intimate as love,
having no heart for the burst of a motor
against an immaculate silence, a canopy
over the water. Still, a loon's
echo falling, he can hear himself breathe.
He dare not think, "Good to be alive ...,"
the spell easily broken.

The sub
begins its prowl. Cities sleep,
but children in some of them know and curl
into balls. Parents have put aside funds
for the future, keeping their fingers crossed.
But some begin the awful rowing,
intimate labor, intimate love,
having no heart for the burst of a motor,
all heart for children curled like bugs.
The sub, seeing them, will not see them,
but the children must be told how rowboats,
cupped hands, aren't much to go on, but go on.

Roger Bergman was a student at Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts when this poem appeared.

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