maurer_no_swimming1.jpgNo Swimming Except with a Franciscan Friar

Bonnie Maurer


                         Sign in the lake at Mary Anderson Center       

                         for the Arts, Mt. St. Francis, Indiana














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:  the persistent

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?


[This poem first appeared in Arts Indiana]




maurer.jpgBonnie Maurer has an MFA from Indiana University and is the author of Ms Lily Jane Babbitt Before the Ten O’clock Bus from Memphis Ran Over Her, (Raintree Press), Old 37: The Mason Cows (Barnwood Press) and  Bloodletting: A Ritual Poem for Women’s Voices (Ink Press). Bonnie was awarded a Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship by the Arts Council of Indianapolis in 2000. Her newest book is Reconfigured (Finishing Line Press, 2009). She works as a poet for Young Audiences of Indiana, as a copy editor for the Indianapolis Business Journal  and as an Ai Chi (aquatic flowing energy) instructor.