The Mad Kayaker Surveys His Gear

He descends to the basement and flips
On the bare bulb at the foot of the steps
And enters the kingdom of floating.
The cinderblock walls and the raftered ceiling
Are a testament to his worship of things
That keep him safe in falling water-

Four kayaks stacked like missiles
In a wooden rack, a red tandem canoe
Suspended from above, helmets
Like severed heads on corner posts,
Lifejackets hung to dry like body armor,
Paddles standing like Trojan spears
In the corners. It’s his armory against
The everyday he has assembled
In his basement, and even on those days
When the river flows without him
He stands here and surveys it all.

Upstairs his wife, reading in a chair,
Wonders what he does down there
Below her in the dark and mould.
She’s seen the grounded kayaks
Like torpedoes waiting in their bins.
With him she’s taken the canoe,
Like a Viking galley and swamped
It in the drink, then beached it high
And dry on some sand bar for lunch.

She knows that in the dark night
Her husband slips off in pajamas
And looks over his gear, but does
Not suspect that on nights like this
He descends the stairs and rummages
Through the gear and finds his
Favorite moldy spray skirt
And spray top and pulls them on,
Then locates the oldest helmet,
The one he’s worn like a warrior
On distant noisy rivers, and snaps
On the cracking vynal strap.

Then he positions the nose clips
And tugs on the back rubber booties
Then drags his kayak down and sits.
He stretches forward to flex,
Before he leans into invisible current

And rocks the boat from side to side

The concrete floor gives way to rocks
And waves. If there is a river here,
It is only in his head where the roaring
Never ceases, where he always sits
At the top of another stair step of rapids,
The water soundless in the silent house.

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