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We've used several of Elise Hempel's poems in this column, and this one is from her latest book from Able Muse Press, Second Rain. To be a child, out for a fast ride in a boat with a father, well, that's a fine time. Elise Hempel lives in Illinois.


After my father unhooded it, lugged it down

the steep path to the boat and clamped it on,

drew back the cord again and again like a pitch

about to be thrown, grimacing with each

whining refusal, and muttered, finally said

She doesn't want to start, after it always did,

and we shoved away from the pier, rowed out of the dense

tangle of weeds and lily pads, not once

did our resting oars uncross their feet,

not even as we entered the shallow inlet

between our lake and the next, just purring through

the reeds in that narrow passage, over the billow

of silt, the rocks, never getting stuck before

we flew through the waves, his hand guiding the tiller.

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We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©016 by Elise Hempel, “Outboard Motor,” from Second Rain, (Able Muse Press, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Elise Hempel and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2017 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

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