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Sample Poems by Veronica Patterson


Water and Its Light


To begin: I walk past the spring Ponce de Leon might have seen, past the live oak draped in Spanish moss, resurrection ferns sprouting from its branches, to the landing. I've come dry to this river this afternoon. & it had rained.

To begin: We push away from the river landing. A hundred yards down the river, the motor tangles in vegetation. In silence, the two boatmen work to free the blades. & it had rained.

To begin: Even if the way closes behind you & if the way closes before you. The boat nudges a blocking island, which turns slowly, tectonically, out of the way. & it had rained.

Water, duckweed through which slender young alligators squirm & long-jawed shadows on shore emit a warning bellow. Red blossoms of swamp hibiscus deepen the green. Great blue herons still as pillars uphold & tall egrets flash like lightning against gloom. Moorhen chicks dart over a surface of floating weeds. A slender anhinga pierces the jade without a ripple to skewer prey. & it had rained. Then sun insists through trees dead & alive fringing the river, dappling the increase, bud, & burgeon. Germinate, wax, & thrive. Sprout & flourish. Time pools. & it had rained.

& what bound us was not water but light, though I lived by a lake and you at a confluence of rivers. The deck at your house always in shadow. You grew impatiens. The deck held light, but dappled & isn't that what we wanted-not just dark, not just light? How else could our conversation, that reassuring river, curl over and around years of dreams? Your illness, loosed again and again, like some dark infusion, was urgency, gravity, giving words weight. Now they sink. Yet when the end loomed, I dreamed you as a sleek Egyptian cat, seal-black, leaping like a dolphin through the darkest water. I waded helplessly along the shore. & what bound us then was not light, but water. &

Once in the Adirondacks, I canoed all morning through a passage choked with water lilies. When I lifted the paddle, it dripped stems. The only sound was the slight rasp of aluminum on lily pad. In the afternoon, I portaged around a cascade on a path through felled trees furred with spongy moss. & it had rained. Then the slightest light through breaking clouds made the world impossibly emerald.


To end: In the water on the St. John's River, schools of minnows glint, pointing here, there. Not light but witnesses to light. Grief and I enter water and bend but do not not break. Without water, who could bear all the light moving toward us?

To end: The anhinga's feathers are designed to waterlog for diving. Afterward, dark angel, it spreads radiant wings to dry. And dives again.

To end: & it had rained.