The Rowers, a poem and remembrance

Jul 18, 2019

Camden — The poem below was written by part-time Camden resident Patti Marxsen in 2017 after watching Sam and Susan Manning row out together year after year. Marxsen wrote in her letter submitting the poem, “Watching them was like watching the seasons, or a clock. The quiet consistency of it became part of the rhythm of Camden Harbor.”

Sam Manning died July 9, and Marxsen sent the poem in tribute.

The Rowers
Look. They’re heading out again,
Rowing eye-to-eye, each bulk of body
Anchored on a plank, oars wobbling in
Rowlocks dipping deep then heavy lifting  
Each wing breath billowing victoriously

Two hats tilted forward immutable
Heads unmoving, sunk in shadow plays
Dark as ancient hulls so carefully crafted
Seaworthy yet light as a green leaf cupped
In the hand holding days of endless time

Only the sleeves reach out, only gloved
Hands curl protective of this ritual these daily
Offices sure as the hum of synchronized prayer
Against some invisible weight felt here above
The harbor a heft and haul of days slowly

Have you noticed how we, too, row daily?
Each day a push and pull through deep waters
We reach up and out, pull back in broad strokes
Unraveling our small forgotten gestures swallowing
Inlets of silence, the raging solitude of tides

Look now, how they skirt the island then turn, they
Turn gracefully to change course they turn and return
Rocking to steady a small stout boat they do this daily
Every day they have done this for years day after day
They row out together, it is their way to remain

Patti Marxsen © 2017




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