row2k Features
If Only He Can Row
December 2, 1997
Joe Cerniglia


by Joe Cerniglia

Author's note: "written in the fall of 1995 before my team (St. Andrew in Georgia) traveled to Philadelphia for our first attempt at the Head of the Schuylkill. I sit bow in the first freshman boat at Northeastern."


The sound of water rushing by is music to his ears
and when he bends the carbon shaft, his total mind is clear.
Nothing in his life out there can interrupt the glide
Of glass and metal slipping by the surface which they ride.

Months of waiting for the day on which he boards the coach
That takes him to the hallowed place that thousands soon approach.
He loves to watch the multitude as they wait their turn
To operate their gleaming shell and feel their muscles burn.

When the sacred time has come he gladly lifts his own,
For thought that he might, by some chance, have his power shown.
Standing in a line he’s stood many times before;
Running to the wooden rack and picking out his oar;
The thought of honor and of strength is growing in his chest
His drive for victory is ready; ready for a test.

His hand he touches to his head his shoulders and his chest,
For only God he knows will give the strength he need posses.

His arms and legs and feet and hands are clenched with rage and power.
Only speed and stamina will yield a glorious hour.

Now wind aback and mettle true, he pulls in unison
With seven men of equal heart who share the goal of one:
To be the best of any eight who dare to pull an oar,
Exclusive right and pride to say that, “I can be no more
Than any of these other men within the boat I pull,”
At last to cross the finish line, and then in life be full.

With only several seconds left, the pain of muscle grows;
And on the tired faces there the grueling anguish shows.
The time is clicking upward still and so the rating goes,
And from the cox’s inspired words the power they need flows.
Ever quicker, ever faster, through the water rips
The speeding white projectile that furnishes the trip.
As they reach the goal they seek the eight collapse in pain,
Never for another year to pull so hard again.

The hardest part is over now but still they have to wait
For all the other crews that race to reach the finish gate.
The judge will post the timer’s sheet and thus will seal their fate.
So now the boat can truly know if they’ll have to wait
For one more year of grueling days before their goal is met;
Or will they hold the disc of gold and be the greatest yet…

This is what the rower craves, to read the sheet and see
Who are they who trained the most to then the greatest be.
Not just one but eight of them must share the sacred gold.
To stand alone atop the dock is nothing to behold.

So when the rower goes to sleep, the race is never done,
His mind is churning thoughts of strength and how he’d once begun.
The peace you see on a row’rs face, in his quiet bed,
Deceives the mind of on-lookers, for crew is in his head.
The trials he has passed and the pain he’s suffered through
Are nothing more but calluses. To death loves only crew;
And when that death to him has come he nothing craves but this:
To feel the wooden handle and the pull against his wrist.
A rower’s only absolute, the one thing he may know,
That happiness he’ll only have if only he can ROW!

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