Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

PoetrySnaps! Mike Collins: The Last Ride

Mike Collins

In the latest installment of KNAU's series PoetrySnaps! we meet Page-based poet Mike Collins. He was born and raised in Arizona and works as a kayak guide on Lake Powell. Collins has the unique ability to store dozens of poems in his head, which he can recite at will whenever the situation is right.Often, that’s in the great outdoors with his kayaking clients. Collins’ friends describe him as a walking talking book of poetry. Today, he shares with us his poem, The Last Ride.

Mike Collins:

The weird thing for me – and maybe that’s part of the gift of being able to do this – I grew up with six kids. It was noisy. I somehow had the ability to participate and also go in my own mind, get my own space even though I was tightknit with everyone. I was able to find my own space in my own self, and that’s where it exists. Like a musician that knows all of his songs and can pull them up at any moment. I would say it’s just like that. These are songs. These are my songs. A poet to me is nothing more than a person who sings the song of their own voice. Your own voice.

The Last Ride, ok. All my life, you know, growing up here by the Grand Canyon, having General Powell run through the Grand Canyon in wooden rowboats, it’s something we got to see growing up here, those actual boats. It always put a very romantic image in my mind, and anytime I see a rowboat – especially when they’re discarded next to a body of water – I love that view. This is a poem, especially in this area with all our river runners, that absolutely applies. It’s titled The Last Ride, and it’s an old river captain seeing this old wooden rowboat on the side of the river, and this is what he says:

The Last Ride

Old wooden rowboat
Scarred with splintered planks
How long have you watched the water
From the grass above the bank

You seem content with the legend you tell
Lying weathered in the grass
Of how you once ran the rapids
Raging through Dead Man’s Pass

But wouldn’t you, like me
An old captain with knotted hands
Choose one more run down the river
Compared to a long, dry death upon the land

Ah, to cut again through the water
Trailing behind us our final wake
Our blood surging like the current
Where countless others have sank

We crest the towering rapids
Shouting our mighty Ho!
And crash the other side
For a taste of the bitter foam

We pluck from the brambled shoreline
A rare and succulent fruit
A bounty of forgotten memories
Plundered in our youth

We’d carry no misconceptions
For neither of us are fools
And our bones would find the cold, dark, rocky bottom
A proper tomb

About the poet:

About the host:

Steven Law is the co-producer of KNAU’s series PoetrySnaps! He is a poet, essayist, storyteller, and the author of Polished, a collection of poems about exploring the Colorado Plateau by foot and by raft.

About the music:

Original music by Flagstaff-based band Pilcrowe.

PoetrySnaps! airs the first and third Friday of each month.


Steven Law was the co-producer of KNAU’s series PoetrySnaps!
Gillian Ferris was the News Director and Managing Editor for KNAU.