Sunburnt Boys

A poem by John Charles McNeill

Down on the Lumbee river
Where the eddies ripple cool
Your boat, I know, glides stealthily
About some shady pool.
The summer's heats have lulled asleep
The fish-hawk's chattering noise,
And all the swamp lies hushed about
You sunburnt boys.

You see the minnow's waves that rock
The cradled lily leaves.
From a far field some farmer's song,
Singing among his sheaves,
Comes mellow to you where you sit,
Each man with boatman's poise,
There, in the shimmering water lights,
You sunburnt boys.

I know your haunts: each gnarly bole
That guards the waterside,
Each tuft of flags and rushes where
The river reptiles hide,
Each dimpling nook wherein the bass
His eager life employs
Until he dies--the captive of
You sunburnt boys.

You will not--will you?--soon forget
When I was one of you,
Nor love me less that time has borne
My craft to currents new;
Nor shall I ever cease to share
Your hardships and your joys,
Robust, rough-spoken, gentle-hearted
Sunburnt boys!

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