Swimming with a Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle
I spy his head above the waves,
big as a man’s fist, black eyes peering at me,
until he dives into darker, deeper water.
Yesterday I saw him a foot from my outstretched hand,
Already tilting his great domed shell away.
Ribbons of green moss rippled behind him,
Growing along the ridge of his back
And down his long reptilian tail.
He swims in everything he knows,
And what he knows is never forgotten.
Wisely, he fears me as if I were the Plague,
Which I am, sick unto death, swimming
To heal myself in his primeval sea
Swimming Into Winter
As winter approaches
I often swim without a lifeguard
Or even a friend watching from the shore,
Returning to stones, sand,
Lake weed, fish, the sky.
I know it’s foolish to stay so long
In October water, but I’m swimming
out of my daily life, out of myself,
losing heat to the source,
my heart to the universe,
until I’m a mere echo of the soft lake water
which holds me back from nothing.
Rain on Water
All afternoon, rain streams down on the lake
until a break in the black clouds
draws me out of the house
into the rocking waves.
I dive through layers of darkness, layers of light,
And when I come up for air,
The sky echoes the underwater world,
Speaking the unspoken,
Not a warning, or god-like, “It shall be!” –
more a wind-driven, earth embracing word –
and I swim to meet it,
from the lake into the sky.
Next to this the body is nothing,
and the mind less than the body,
and only the country of the heart
is equal to what I know.
Freya Manfred is the author of six published books of poetry including “Swimming with a Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle” and “A Goldenrod Will Grow”. Her poetry has appeared in over 100 reviews and magazines and over 30 anthologies. Nature and the outdoor world, as well as the relationships between human beings, are the primary subjects of her work. She now lives near the Twin Cities.