Eight silent canoes
Pushed off onto the still waters
At 2am on a July night.
The full moon and stars
To guide us across the lake
And down river.
The loon and bullfrog
The only sound
Save for the sound of
The bite of the paddle,
The drizzle of water off the blade,
And hulls breaking the surface.
No one spoke,
None of we sixteen.
Lost in our own thoughts
Not wanting to break
The night and the water
Held on us all.
Written July 14, 2000. It is based on a single night in the spring of 1977 when I was part of a group from Claremont’s Stevens High School that canoed the Allagash in northern Maine.
Allagash Wilderness Waterway
It was the third and final major canoe trip I went on (Saco River in 1975 starting in Fryeburg, ME, Allagash in 1976-July-ish when it was warmer and slower). This trip was earlier, in May, when the water ran faster and the time was spent moving down river with the flow of the river. Nights were a lot cooler and the food was a lot different. Many of us had bad hypothermia the first night because it was a cold rain and none of us had unpacked our bags to pull out the foul weather gear. I remember well having to strip off all of my cold wet clothes and sharing a sleeping bag with another camper. The night written about here started innocently enough. We arrived at this particular campsite on Eagle Lake earlier than normal, because of the river’s current. We all set up each tent and set the dinner fire going. I think it was fried bologna. We all turned in early. We were tired. The moon rose before 11. There were ants and black flies everywhere. One of the campers had to sit by the fire at each campsite to ward off the black flies. Anyway, one by one we all realized we weren’t going to sleep any more that night. Before am, we were all pacing around, uneasy. The leaders all agreed to put out for the next camp. We weren’t in any rush at am though. This was the way I felt about this night. After we put in mid morning at the next site, I remember the wonderful brook trout we caught and I can still taste it, twenty-three years later. I think these times, when I was moving from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, when I was canoeing the Saco and then the Allagash were some of the happiest of my high school days. On the 1976 trip, from Massachusetts, I found the canoe paddle I wrote about in the poem “Wind” I always talked about going back to the Allagash; but I have never gone back. It wasn’t until 22 years later that I finally got my canoe again.
(Raymond A. Foss)
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Based on Keywords: eight, pushed, july, school, maine, bite, sharing, starting, current, trip, bag