September 2016

Learning to Swim in the Millpond

          by Sarah Brownsberger


The surface is gold and slick

with algae, weightless

oil sallowing your skin;

you see it when water striders

leave tracks with their spider feet.


Underwater is silver

with sediment and weed rot,

metal shavings dancing

round the magnet of your hand,

round your ankles lily stems and


cold currents over hollows where

snapping turtles lurk,

your hair in slow motion

in shafts of sun

from a sky like old glass.


You perch on a stone, watching

bubblets rise from your gooseflesh arms,

dragonflies dart and shy, a crow

croaks from the elm and suddenly

you hear the rush in the sluiceway.


Once my brother and I sank a raft

in waterliles; a shout sounded

from the bank as we thrashed

to a rush-hidden island, a boulder,

where we waited to be rescued


like Moses in the basket,

waited very still because

aside us lay a coil of fresh dark stripes,

a snake that blinked but did not

budge, happy on warm granite.


Sarah Brownsberger’s poems have recently appeared in Poetry East, Commonweal, and WomenArts Quarterly and have previously appeared in The Hudson Review, Field, OnEarth, Salamander, Alaska Quarterly Review, and other journals. Her essay “Poetry, Hunger, and Electric Lights: Lessons from Iceland on Poetry and its Audience” appeared in the September, 2015, Cambridge Quarterly (UK). Her Icelandic-English translations include Sigfús Bjartmarsson’s bestiary Raptorhood (Uppheimar, 2007) and Harpa Árnadóttir’s artist’s diary June (Crymogea, 2011).