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Poems from Water under Water

  Two Girls Leaping  

They have a favorite color — this one:
this chlorinated aqua, this womb lunar blackness
drawn wholly into the light. The depth of the pool
beguiles them, the weight of their own bodies.

Mother is not near, so it is easy to jump in, to test
themselves against the cold liquid fire of the violently
blue water, to attempt flight, hands linked in a joyous
failure of suicide.

They wear no caps: dark hair spills black puppy tails
along their small tanned necks. Time lunges ahead, eternity
passes. A hundred leaps cannot tire them. They live
to jump: the heart of the water's coolness pulses in them.

In what way are they innocent? The fragrance of unawareness
stays on them: their fearful certitude about all things
perturbs the slow dark pools we swim in. In their nonstop
gab, the world's extravagant newness stings and clashes.

They are giddy with the ordinary, laugh in its cold blue
stranger's face.

                        *   *   *

Becky is still laughing, gliding like a seal
in her favorite aqua water; she is giggling and splashing;
but now Mother is here, now Mother pulls her, goose-bumped
and dripping, from the ice-blue pool; now Mother slaps her,

slaps her again, again slaps her.

And Jennifer has seen everything. Watch how carefully
she moves, how cautiously she holds her tingling body.
"Let's see who can go slower," she says, "Let's see who goes

                        *   *   *

The pool is empty now, a liquid rectangle. Water has its
own life, its own candor. Step back. Take a running start.

Now tell me: What is your heart's desire?




  Speaking Island
  for my daughters

Wind seethes deep in the coconut palms,
weaves those spiky leaves into weapons
of samurai rain

then slowly unsheathes the sun — a changeableness
the blood gathers: pelican gulp of the breeze,
blue heron cloaked in mangrove root

and shadow. You drink deeply this moss-tangled
heaven, clasped securely in talons
of sun and air.

From the yellow frangipani, joy in fragrance.
The red hibiscus flares. Welcome
to the sun, to bare skin, the realm

of the body, sweet odors of star-blossoming
hands, home still green and butterfly-
golden, aroma

of fresh coffee, vanilla bean, tapioca,
ginger. Your toes and fingers, lips and throat

What language does the earth speak?
Perhaps tongues near to the equator know
bone-fire Gaelic or Upper Ganges Greek:

some subterranean text darker than Swahili
that bubbles up from a fissure deep
as grief.

It's something about the trees that gives
meaning: the way they sway, the way they lean
toward death.

And the sea — what vowels or consonants
does the sea utter? Sunlight faltering west
cuts the night to ribbons, prisms

of light risen from the underworld
of the moment. It's the light falling
and the slashed night

risen, and the mind a full moon tidal
in its power: once again, to be cupped
in the palm of beauty.