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The Jaunt

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In party outfits, two by two or one by one
(I was expected to go along as well),
They step up the steep gangplank, hands on
Metal railing. The river, youthful also
In midnight blue with sunset-tinted wavelets,
Lets them borrow its broad back
For an evening’s unhurried round trip,
Which won’t interrupt old river habits for long.
Not the chop and churn of big propellers
As the rocking stern heaves off and wheels fanwise
Into the current, nor a short blast from the stack,
Not the up-tempo drumbeat of the black-tie combo
Nor an answering fusillade of popped corks, not geysers
Of laughter pitched flagpole high among flailing
Limbs out on the polished floor nor the mixed
Babble of sideline comment over bubbling glasses
Can shake that seamless imperturbability. . . .

When the springy net of sparkles has shrunk and faded
Out of sight, the last rough throb been coaxed
From the tenor sax’s frog-in-the-throat, the final
Needling tremolo of the clarinet been wrapped up
In distance, suddenly it is strange to be here
In lilac afterglow with trout-leap and mayfly. . . .
Strange, too, how our part of the river continues
To trundle along its tonnages of water and motion.

The unused ticket spins to the ground.
As much as any person not two people can
I miss the jaunt, for just this one hour of dusk. . . .
Then, a veiled echo, my name called as I turn
To answer, eyes adjusting to where we are
At the pivot of night, the cusp of light.
Light enough to feel our way back to the grove
Of alders along the curving path beside the river;
Light enough to recognize my life when I see it,
Going in its direction, more or less at the same pace.

Alfred Corn, “The Jaunt” from Stake: Poems 1972-1992 (Washington: Counterpoint Press, 1999). Copyright © 1999 by Alfred Corn. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Source: Autobiographies (1992)
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The Jaunt

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