Floating in a sea of other boaters,
I see only eight contenders
they sit at ready -
the boat is set – balanced,
the sun is high overhead.
Knuckles are white,
as sixteen fists
close around the extended oars.
Their faces seem carved from flint,
except the occasional movement of a jaw-muscle
showing the presence of life.
All eyes stare ahead . . .
I stare at the young man in the power seat.
He is wearing a white baseball cap.
There is a sudden movement, more felt than seen,
as the official raises his gun toward the sky -
Out across the water I hear a loud shout from the coxswain,
a small young woman at the rear of the boat -
“Sit at the Catch – Oars buried – 5-4-3-2-1- Set – GO!”
The Oarsmen dig into the water with powerful, synchronized strokes.
Muscles ripple and shine with sweat.
The sun glares down upon their labor,
but they pay no heed.
Their boat moves ahead with steady thrusts
until they have a definite lead.
“Quick 3-4, 3-4. Lengthen, lengthen, we have bow-ball,”
the coxswain shouts into her microphone.
The boat has a full two-foot lead over all others,
and again I watch the young man in the white cap.
He’s pulling with every muscle he has.
He’s giving his best. He’s in the race.
“Power ten! Power ten! 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10!
Stay strong, stay strong.”
As the coxswain shouts these new directions,
the team surges forward,
pushing beyond all previous power strokes,
expending more energy, giving more of themselves.
White Cap, moving like a finely-tuned motor -
seems more machine than man.
The fans around me press forward -
the racing boats near the finish line.
and words of encouragement blend
until suddenly, all voices become one.
“Row! Row! Row!”
Out across the water I hear the shouts of a dozen coxswains
Each shouting instructions to their team.
“Stay strong! Stay strong!
Pull it out! Finish the race!”
My White Cap is still contending, he’s rowing.
His bronzed body is glistening.
The sun upon his shoulder,
seems intent upon melting his body and the boat into one.
I stand silently in the midst of the roaring, exuberant, crowd.
Above their shouts, I hear the clear voice of the coxwain -
she urges the team to contend to the end.
“Last 300 meters, last 20 strokes, last 10 strokes
10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1!
Great race! Keep rowing, keep rowing!
Though the noise of the cheering crowd swells to deafening volumes,
it is of no concern to me.
I feel satisfaction, joy, peace, and triumph,
as I watch through teary eyes, the young man in the white cap.
My own cheer emerges and blends with the shouting multitude,
“White Cap, my son, Great race!
Nice rehearsal for life!
Keep rowing, keep rowing, keep rowing!”