Memoir as a Body of Water

Long ago, in the storm rocked Cantabrian Sea,
My friends and I heeded some impulse to strip
And plunge below the jagged breakers.
Blood pounding in my ears the only sound
As waves swirled above like illuminated thunderheads.
Later, we sat on pockmarked boulders at dusk,
An electric charge in the air. Hushed breath, chests rising
And falling as though joined by an invisible current,
The shared knowledge of what we had risked.
Today, I enter the pebbled shallows of a man-made lake.
My footsteps tear through the reflection of pine trees,
Warp their curve upwards with hill’s rise, their sun-bright
Branches greening the water’s mirrored darkness.

Today I’m thinking about youth and the vitality I once had. When I wrote this poem this past spring, I was feeling content with the peace and calm I had arrived at.

But as I’m going through another depression of the agitated variety, my nerves completely shot, I marvel at how I used to thrill at riding wooden roller coasters or swimming in rough water.

Yesterday I took the second Covid booster, which hasn’t seemed to cause me any great distress, but the new medication I’m taking for anxiety has tired me as my body adjusts. I’m still hoping the anxiety will ebb, but so far, after ten days, I’ve only experienced minor improvements.

Guided meditations and lap swimming have helped ease some of the pain. Distractions like walking my dog or gardening when the heat is not too unbearable also help. Remembering that all things change and are changing every moment is a consolation, too.

I copied the owl’s face from the cover of this month’s Atlantic, “How Animals Perceive the World“ by Ed Yong, photo by Shayan Asgharnia

Equinox Lovesong During Late Stage Pandemic



After the windstorms, we wake
to snowslides of petals on the grass,
First loss of the season, these lung-soft ghosts.

Fire-striped tulips affront our sorrow,
waving their wild colors as we pass.
After the storms, we awaken

to what we should have known,
that the first kiss could also be the last.
Memories linger like soft little ghosts.

A flotilla of pollen cloaks the lakeshore,
concealing the water glass surface–
opaque in the storm’s wake.

We used to fear a certain swimming-hole,
so dark, where the children might slip from our grasp.
Time has turned our fears into mean little ghosts

that drag us down like an undertow,
our breath heavy in the laden air.
After each rainstorm we’re awake
to a springtide of loss, these sallow ghosts

This poem is a variation on a villanelle I started a few years ago during April and that I recently revised a bit.

Dark pools of water show up frequently in my dreams, and they show up in my poems, as well.

Sometimes I see animals coming up out of the water such as alligators. In general, when I see dark, murky waters in my dreams, I think I’m dealing with the unconscious mind, memories I might be afraid to look at.

But if I do manage to sit with the fears during the dream, the water sometimes will become clear and the creatures inhabiting the dreamscape become colorful and whimsical, not at all scary and creepy.

My poem doesn’t get past the fears as the speaker contemplates loss of petals, the memories in the dark pools of water, and in the background, the loss of so many lives to covid.

Sketchbook/diary