We are in it, everyone
watching everyone and nothing
is ever still. A pock-faced girl tilts back
the dregs of ginger cider, purple bikini frill
a-flutter in the afternoon breeze, like a butterfly,
an old man thinks, eyeing her while wading
hip-deep through the cold. He crosses the creek
in jeans, youth hot as a sun-baked pebble
under his tongue. In water, he is ageless.
His bones, scooped clean of cancer
and buoyant is his body in this body
of water. Even in the damp of early
morning, before the cars and picnics, labra-doodles
and pool noodles, SPF 55 still in its bottle, this water
runs. We don’t try to stop it. Between and through
us and the rocks and boulders, it herds its own
hard moves. From drip to full-hoof trot, bringing alpine
and cloud and traces of the city’s dried sweat.
It runs, as always, long before anyone
was there to look, against, between, and through,
making slots and canyon, flexing, then turning on itself
for a back eddy rest. Two teens, side-by- side,
like copper spoons bedded-down under a fir bough,
uncertain of who to love or touch, stirring
their wet-lipped sleep, waking long before
What soft-bodied dreams,
young and slippery as smolt, drawn while the dew
of late summer gathers on their eyelids,
sleeping bags unzipped on the moss.
they were awake.
And the old
ones? Two in sunglasses
speak to the sky, to each other, to
no one and everyone. Like manatees,
their bodies horizontal horizons
in a clear green pool through the sun-
screen slick, between underwater
cold and high noon heat
above. They mark the creek
bed with supine shadows, their lives
gathered to trail entirely
boneless below.
Hauled out on the rocks, bodies
then supple in the water, tad-poling between
canyon walls, in and out of the forest
with handfuls of huckleberries, unafraid
to jump, jumping just to be
unafraid, shedding their skin, splitting
the creek feet first.

Emily Nilsen, 2015
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