Academic journal article TriQuarterly

Crossing the Water

Academic journal article TriQuarterly

Crossing the Water

Article excerpt

How disappointing for you, the hero in the fairy tale, Having proven yourself too pure for the spells of witches And too slippery for the chains of giants, to come at last To the bank of the river you glimpsed in a vision - With hills on the other side as green as you dreamed them And the hill town just as inviting, there where true companions Destined for you are waiting with the princess - Only to find the current too fast for swimming.

It can't be easy for someone who's always prided himself On never asking for help to hurry along the bank In hopes of finding a boat for hire. Not easy to settle, For want of another choice, on a ferry like mine, Dirty as a coal barge, smelly as a fish smack. And then to find that I'm the boatman, a raggedy hunchback With an eye that seems both crafty and servile. What could be worse for making the good impression You were hoping to make on regal spirits Who even now are planning a feast of welcome.

Worse than all this is what you'll feel in a minute, Halfway across, when I mention the poling fee You forgot to ask: how when you step ashore You have to present me to the welcoming party As your trusty companion, the person you owe the most, The one they'll have to honor if they want your friendship. …

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