★ ★ ★ ★
Image by Artem Militonian
Always after dark when the pool
floods with underwater light,
the very definition of aquamarine,
so that it feels like stroking through
Alone, there’s no need to stay in one lane,
which is fortunate since every summer
I must relearn how to pull and scull evenly,
especially on my back, so as not to torpedo off
at such an angle or bash into a wall, a step,
a railing arcing silver into the water. Even
in the pool my perennial klutziness manifests.
But after the annual reorientation of a land
mammal returning to a liquid state,
my laps straighten themselves out, body
memory taking over what the mind cannot
direct. From water we long ago emerged and
to water we return, especially at the end
of superheated days, fall fast approaching,
to cool ourselves, to switch off thinking, to float
and find ourselves supported by something greater,
something simpler, always held.
Old oak, coming down
They will take it apart, limb by limb,
starting at the highest point, and
you cannot watch, even though
part of you wants to honor
the passing of this elder. You cannot
bear the chainsaw whine piercing
the walls of the house that the oak
has guarded—long before this
structure that contained your family,
gone now, stood beneath it.
You have protected this ancestor,
nurtured it, let only nature water it
since it is the very definition of
drought-tolerant. Your children
picked up its acorns and made dolls
with them, threw them at each other.
You took those nuggets of oak
to school for your students to propagate,
to marvel over the initial bud of root,
then, in a glass jar, watching the web
of roots grow as the first thin stems
aimed skyward. You taught them
to appreciate the life cycle of growing
What you didn’t say is that all of us
are born and live and die. We hate
watching our loved ones decline,
especially our venerable elders.
And on this day—not by your choice—
the lesson is delivered by young men
swarming over the skeleton of
a once-great tree. Your heart bleeds,
you matriarch, you ancestor.
You wonder, as you often do now,
near the end of your 92nd summer,
how much time you have left.
You still see her beauty.
Jan Haag taught writing as a journalism/creative writing professor in Sacramento, California, for more than three decades. Now retired, she hosts writing workshops using the Amherst Writers & Artists method and is the editor of AWA Press. She is the author of a poetry collection, Companion Spirit, and she has had stories and poems published in many anthologies and literary journals.