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Sitting behind Ben-Hur


The drumbeat sets the oar-stroke, cruelly;

But then we do not choose our heartbeat.


Manacles confine us.  Who, however,

Can be really said to venture?


If in the battle it is row or drown,

We row.  The lash is often on us.


It is an incentive, in its way.

The rowing builds up shoulder muscles.


I've a tan.  I look at backs a lot.

I deeply understand teamwork.


I live in filth.  Was I fastidious

When I was free?  Here sharks will have us;


It's not as though elsewhere there are not jackals.

Bear up.  Hand and heart grow calloused.


Turner Cassity



From The Destructive Element: New and Selected
Ohio University Press/Swallow Press, 1999.
Reprinted by permission of the author.

Background by
Erd Ogivae

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