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).