Finally my chance came in a rush.
Borrowed boat and supplies,
teacher in tow, I headed to white water,
class one rapids of the Tellico River.
Rhododendron blooms flanked the bank,
invited me near.
I had to learn to turn over, me inside
the kayak, release a rubber skirt
from the edges, exit the boat underwater,
and come up for air before drowning.
Three times I tried. Three times my mind
left my body. Both my arms froze up,
legs flailing in desperation.
Fears of a lifetime shot
through my mind in one second.
I knew I would drown.
I grabbed at the legs of my buddy,
a man I met only minutes before,
a man who did not foresee need for a rescue.
My run on the river promised
a wild carefree day
free from worries and stress,
escaping collapsed personal bonds.
I ignored the irony. I found safety
in the hands of a stranger.
Finally I did it, paddled and laughed
my way downstream, one new buddy
or another nearby for the save.
One high stress jaunt, first and last,
one less item on my bucket list.
Author’s Comment: Wet Exit is a memoir of my one and only kayak trip. For 30 years I imagined myself in a kayak, running the rapids, admiring the grace and skill of folks I saw on the Nantanala River near Bryson City NC. But I never made the opportunity happen. Finally a friend arranged it all for me. But something unexpected happened inside me, a profound fear that only left me when I put this poem on paper.
Bio: Mary Ricketson, Murphy, NC, has been writing 20 years to satisfy a hunger. She is inspired by nature and her work as a counselor. Her poetry has been published in Wild Goose Poetry Review, Future Cycle Press, Journal of Kentucky Studies, Lights in the Mountains, Echoes Across the Blue Ridge, Freeing Jonah, and her chapbook I Hear the River Call My Name. She is a member of North Carolina Writers Network and is president of Ridgeline Literary Alliance.