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LAST RACE AT QUINSIGAMOND
# — Worcester, Massachusetts; May 1, 1993

#I
Sleek as toothpicks and long as a house,
even in their racks the boats are speed itself.
If falcons were fish, they'd look like this —
not like us parents who litter the foreground
like beached mackerel, scattered on blankets
in our wintery whiteness, at ease among the banks
of oars lined up and ready like tools.

#II
All day among bright school colors,
the races are announced in a crackly gibberish
and from time to time we join the clamor
by the shore, shouting (though we've been told
we can't be heard) for our sons to prevail
against the boats of Trinity, the Holy Cross,
when prayer against such names seems sacrilege.

#III
And all day long the Life-Flight helicopters
lift off in a clatter of dark blades
from the Medical Center across the road.
(The boats must look like water-walkers beneath them.)
They skim the length of lake toward what
exigent cruelties-and then return, like bees
discharging their duty, their dance.

#IV
When it's over, the shells secure in their rack,
our son bursts into tears, missing already
the heft of the red/black oar,
the crew-mates behind him and how, like a live machine,
they caused the boat to rise upon the stroke,
their backs straightening toward the finish,
there before they knew it.



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