Reading a River

When canoeing,

look for ripples on the river

focus where the water makes a “V”.

When the apex points toward you,

paddle hard left or right of the point

for that is a hidden rock that could capsize you.

See an upside down “V” in the river?

The wide end marks rocks on either side.

Head straight down the middle between the rocks,

glide over the long tongue of water sticking out.

As roiling rapids rush by, chase the stream

through the chute,

paddle with authority

through the watery mouth.

Conversations can run like whitewater,

a gush of words headed for hard knocks.

Navigate your dialogue, stay the course

even if your opponent

is the boulder that won’t budge.

When differences of opinion

threaten to sink you,

don’t water down your point,

steady your canoe, dig in,

paddle hard your truth.

Annette Grunseth

Annette Langlois Grunseth, received the 2022 Hal Gruetzmacher Poetry Prize, a Gold Medal for Combat and Campus: Writing Through War, and was a Pushcart Prize nominee for Becoming Trans-Parent She has published two books and enjoys riding bike trails, kayaking, and camping. Learn more at

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