Swimming Except with a Franciscan Friar
Sign in the lake at
Mary Anderson Center
for the Arts, Mt. St. Francis,
A water strider is too single minded.
The dragonfly dips and departs.
What calls a Franciscan Friar to the water?
Does he shed his garb
or let his black habit spread before you
as a watery pasture?
And what kind of companion in the lake
is a Franciscan Friar?
Do you mirror his strokes?
Does he lead you to the other side
and back again?
Do you walk to the end of the brick-red dock,
talk of weathered boards, sage-old knotholes,
then dive in
or begin your journey one step at a time
down the dream ladder?
How deep do you go at first?
Does he lose himself in “Sister Water”?
Would he lead you toward heaven
on earth, the billowing
parachute of clouds on water, the diamond
slant of “Brother Sun”?
Would he explain the insistent opportunity the woodpecker
confirms from the maple:
swim from your old life tangle, the taste of
water, pure and chaste?
Would you emerge clear and reflective (as water)
and stand by the bones
of the dead catfish on the bank: spine and
bony whiskers; tail fin still intact;
skin, parchment-thin; soggy, white flesh, fine
and delicate as milkweed blossoms and ask
where does the spirit of the catfish sail?
Would he stand dripping, opalescent, as rain holds
to the pokeberry, and preach the fish’s story: Could we all
curve back—our spines gracefully arranged;
our tail fins splayed for balance; our heads
laid low, humble, dead
on those mud-laden rocks at the water’s edge?
The ripples find this old carcass and accept this design
on the water sure as faith.
Then would we lift our eyes
to the three young swallows
darting a new maze over the water
and call it a day?
first appeared in Arts Indiana]