Nov 29, 2018
Creative Writing

Roots, rocks, creek crossings—he likes that,
whether on the rivet, pedaling switchbacks, short pitches—
riding solo or in tempo’s team, as morning sun, caloric,
gilds the ridge above the Mechums and the Moormans.

Whether on the rivet, pedaling switchbacks, short pitches,
or on foot, up berm, through gnarl, shin-high floods
lit with every river’s windings—Charles, Goffle Brook, Rivanna—
a boundless freedom of the human mind.

On foot, up berm, through gnarl, washboard, floods—
this is what to journey means: every pulse point of the compass.
Trusting the boundless freedom of the human mind,
as day progresses through foot-strike, knock, & zone,

is this what journey means: past East Range, West,
toward Courthouse, back, where a little rebellion now & then,
as time progresses through wall and zone, can be a good thing?
To serve, to move, to dream this way is a cadence

of give and take, of there and back, a good thing.
Whether solo or in team’s tempo, as sun makes its homing run.
To serve, to move, to dream is a living, human habitat.
Roots, rocks, creek crossings—be like that.

By Lisa Russ Spaar, with italicized lines borrowed from Jonathan Z. Cannon and Thomas Jefferson.

Lisa Russ Spaar is a nationally recognized poet and teacher. She’s a professor of English and director of UVA’s creative writing program. Spaar (Col ’78, Grad Arts & Sciences ’82) wrote this poem marking the inauguration of James E. Ryan, the ninth president of the University of Virginia.

The pantoum poetic form originated in Malaysia in the 15th century as a short folk poem, typically made up of two rhyming couplets that were recited or sung. It comprises a series of quatrains, using repetition of lines within stanzas.

Original Publication: The University of Virginia