I sit on the water. The water’s surface is calm and quiet.
While the strokes continue, I look at the person sitting in front of me.
I can only see their back, but I’ve become used to it.
The coxswain is calling starts.
There’s only a few minutes left, but I cannot keep time.
Everything’s happening so fast.
The judges call for the boats to line up.
Gracefully, we glide across the water.
Smooth and kept.
Our balance leans the boat port-side, but it is soon restored thorough the echoing voice of our coxswain.
We’re in our lane. I now take in the presence of the other boats.
They look fierce and prepared, then I look back into our boat.
We need to stand just as strong.
We are strong, if not stronger.
I remember that, because there’s no backing down.
I will not show fear.
Coxswain tells us to sit at three-quarters slide.
The point is adjusted and voices become silent.
I am reminded of every day I worked at practice.
Down to the last hour.
Down to the last minute.
My concentration becomes keener.
I take my final reassuring breaths.
I am fearless.
I am strong.
I am a rower.
“All boats, ready.”
I dip my oar in a bit deeper. The silence is almost frightening.
My nerves are on a thin thread.
I breathe deeply. There’s no turning back.
“Three-quarters, half, three-quarters, full, full.”
“Power 10! Let’s do this! That’s 10! 9!”
Only three sounds can be heard.
The placement and swing of our blades against the boat.
The coxswain’s encouragement.
My ragged breaths.
I don’t dare look away.
“Keep the pressure, girls! We can beat Oakland! They’re a boat-length ahead! Bring me up to their 8 seat!”
I disregard the alarms going off in my body.
I exert all of my energy. I’m feeling lighter.
“We’re gaining on them! Get me to their 7 seat!”
Time is nothing to me.
I cannot think, only do.
My sole thought is my technique.
“Ladies, we’re walking them! Bring me to their 3 seat!”
I don’t doubt my coxswain’s words, but I am tempted to look to the side.
Our boat leans starboard for a stroke, but jolts back in balance with the next stroke.
My body begs for a rest, even a let-up.
But that’s exactly what the other teams want.
A single chance to dominate us.
But I won’t give in.
Not now, not ever.
“We are even with Oakland! We’re in the last 500, girls! Don’t let them catch up!”
The last 500…?
But we have gone so far.
I won’t give up!
“Ladies, power 10 in 2! That’s 1! 2! That’s 10! 9!”
This is the last chance…to show them everything.
The time is now!
Suddenly, added adrenaline runs through my body.
My breaths become more ragged and I feel a bit high.
I don’t let up.
The horn goes off, signaling our finish.
I lose the will to move.
Our coxswain tells us to paddle, but relearning how to breathe seemed more important to me.
Regardless of the silent screams of pain in my body, I obey my coxswain’s order.
We wane off after a while and once all boats cross the finish, we congratulate the other clubs.
I’m becoming tired; my body is crying, but we’ve succeeded.
Everyone worked hard.
We shared everything.
And there’s only one way to show how strong we really are.
And that’s all there is to it.
Coxswain: The boss of a row boat
Starts: A warm-up exercise for rowers to begin a race correctly
I wrote this poem when I was in the Los Gatos Rowing Club. This is poem was my farewell speech as I graduated.