Step by step the longest march can be won, can be won;
Many stones may build an arch, singly none, singly none.
Dip your blades deep in the shining water,
pull, uncurling like a metered spring.
Feel the boat beneath you taking wing;
The river holds you where your oars have caught her.
Do it again – repeat the stroke you’ve wrought, a
hundred times, a thousand, as you wring
perfection from a frail and faltering thing –
your body, focused tight on what you’ve taught her.
One perfect stroke scarce qualifies as rowing:
ten meters of smooth movement flow behind,
a thousand lie in wait along the stream.
If you can feed perfection, keep it growing,
repeat that perfect stroke a hundred times,
you’ve paid in pain and sweat – you own that dream.
Gosh, another rowing poem from me. What a surprise. The fourth line came to me as part of another poem, that I later realized was awful; the rest of this was pretty much built to give that line a home, and because I wanted to explore the idea that real value lies not in doing a thing right once, but in keeping on even when it hurts. (Quoted lines in the beginning are borrowed from Waldemar Hills and Pete Seeger; I actually know them from Sweet Honey in the Rock’s beautiful rendition.)